Private companies boost Papua New Guinea’s health sector


The private involvement in healthcare has expanded substantially in Papua New Guinea as foreign investment, particular into the country’s mining and petroleum sectors, has grown. We present a brief overview of the sector.

Offering health care on Lihir Island. Credit: International SOS

Offering health care on Lihir Island. Credit: International SOS

Developing health care standards and foreign investment in Papua New Guinea are expanding the business opportunities available to private sector healthcare providers.

Since setting up in PNG nearly 20 years ago, International SOS has grown to become a major provider of medical and security assistance. It has are more than 400 staff in the country, with facilities including an international standard clinic, a medical response and evacuation team, and an emergency medical facility.

International SOS PNG General Manager Bruce Clark said the company’s growth was backed by the increase in resources and related services companies entering the country.

‘Many of our global energy, mining and infrastructure clients were moving into PNG to invest in the country’s vast resources,’ Clark tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘In a country where healthcare standards are still developing, we have worked with companies to ensure the health and safety of their staff.’

Global trend

An Abt JTA patrol team. Credit: Abt JTA

An Abt JTA patrol team. Credit: Abt JTA

‘Private partnerships, where companies work with existing health providers to support and strengthen their operations, are part of a global trend taking place in PNG,’ says Geoff Scahill, General Manager Private Sector Development, at Abt JTA.

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Abt JTA  facilitates public-private programs between mining companies, government agencies and health care providers, offering health impact assessments, scoping studies, onsite health services, employee medical testing and hospital management.

Not just for specialists

The OECD reports that, in many low-income countries, 50% or more of the resources spent on health are private resources. Furthermore, it says, private expenditure on health and public expenditure on health produce similar outcomes.

In PNG, private sector involvement in healthcare isn’t the sole preserve of healthcare specialists. Construction company Hornibrook NGI, for instance, owns a 56% share in the Lae International Hospital, which it founded 2009, providing services ranging from accident and emergency to obstetrics and paediatrics.

Training course on malaria at Kutubu. Courtesy: Oil Search Health Foundation

Training course on malaria at Kutubu. Courtesy: Oil Search Health Foundation

In Southern Highlands Province, Oil Search Limited has achieved impressive results in malaria control, and has established a foundation to extend its health contribution to PNG.

What of the public sector?

While there is no question that private services have grown partly due to the poor quality of PNG’s public health sector, the public system is making progress. The PNG Government has committed itself to free public healthcare in 2014, while major hospitals such as Port Moresby General Hospital are receiving more funding, with K1.4 billion committed to health spending in the country’s 2014 Budget.

In POM General’s case, a government grant has allowed the hospital to make significant renovations, including the recent repainting of all buildings on the hospital ground and removal of rundown or older housing units.

Public and private sector join forces against Malaria

Steve Knowles, Malaria Initiative Project Director

Steve Knowles, Malaria Initiative Project Director

A new initiative launched this month involves the private sector joining with health departments and provincial governments in a public health campaign to eradicate malaria in PNG by 2050.

PNG is severely affected by malaria, particularly in New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, Gulf, Manus and Milne Bay.

Called the PNG Industry Malaria Initiative (PIMI), those behind the concept bring together major resource operators (energy, mining and agribusiness) to create public-private partnerships (PPPs) with their host provinces.

Steve Knowles, the director of the initiative, says the anti-malaria programme ‘makes good economic sense’ for the companies involved, which include ExxonMobil, New Britain Palm Oil, St Barbara, W R Carpenter and Newcrest Mining.

‘We know that malaria is the most significant public health threat to their operations in PNG,’ he told Radio Australia recently .

Rural health

Aid monies and volunteers are the backbone of rural health

Aid monies and volunteers are the backbone of rural health.

Aid money still provides the backbone of funding to revitalise a rural health system that’s been in decline since the 1980s. An estimated 40% of rural health facilities have closed or are not fully functioning.

An initial project began in Milne Bay last month to provide a health outpost, to save locals the hassle of travelling 35 kilometres to their nearest hospital. Funders include the Asian Development Bank, AusAid, the National Department of Health and the Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority.

The project will be expanded to Eastern Highlands, East Sepik, Enga, Western Highlands, West New Britain, Morobe, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.


  1. Please provide names of people contributing articles to your blog. Unable to cite articles without a name.

  2. Raymond says

    Hi ,

    Please, kindly provide me a confirmation letter

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