Pacific International Hospital CEO says private-public partnerships best way forward for Papua New Guinea health sector

Private-public partnerships are the best way for Papua New Guinea to deal with its health needs, Sandeep Shaligram, Chief Executive of Pacific International Hospital tells Business Advantage PNG. He says the Port Moresby-based private hospital is looking to train locals and start a nursing college.

Pacific International Hospital. Source: PIH

Shaligram says Pacific International Hospital has been ‘in this business of private sector health care for the last 22 years’.

It started out as a ‘super speciality clinic and a diagnostic centre,’ filling gaps in the government’s services.

‘A lot of services that were not there in the government sector were brought in,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘We have done a large number of cataract surgeries.’

‘Thereafter, we were also doing a lot of work in the non-governmental sector as sort of an aid organisation.

‘We have done a large number of cataract surgeries on a not-for-profit basis and still continue to do so in all of those places which have no access to medical services.’

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Pacific International Hospital’s Sandeep Shaligram. Source: BAI

In 2015, the company inaugurated a state-of-the-art tertiary care multi-specialty hospital at 3 Mile/Taurama in Port Moresby.

The hospital is the first facility of its kind in PNG, and includes a cardiac catheterisation laboratory (for diagnosis of heart problems) and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine.

It is also the only hospital in PNG with interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery, an endoscopy suite and a minimal invasive surgery suite for laparoscopic, arthroscopic and endoscopic facilities.

‘Our specialty has been giving the advanced and tertiary health care that is not available in the country so far,’ says Shaligram.

‘We have fantastic ICUs (Intensive Care Units) and the cath lab is the biggest addition to the country.

‘We have brought in the first and only cath lab in PNG. The nearest is in Australia.

‘We are also trying to bring these in at an affordable cost because the cost of going to Australia or the Philippines [is prohibitive].

‘In the Philippines, it would be over three times and in Australia over five times—plus the travel costs, plus getting out of your home zone, your comfort zone when you are sick.’


Shaligram says health is one of the important state functions. ‘It is structured that way because the primary health care responsibility still remains with the government.

‘Any company working outside that can have only a very limited reach. So that means our reach is extended.

‘Operational costs have increased.’

‘The only way to go forward is public–private partnerships. They are more accountable.

‘You can set certain milestones to be reached. I am happy that a lot of the systems in PNG are aligning to that now.’


Shaligram says his operational costs have increased. ‘At the moment I earn in kina and have to pay in kina for what I buy.

‘So, with the kina going down, it costs me more money to buy the same thing.

‘Sourcing any kind of medical technology is hard and very complicated.’

‘We have a lot of pending payments because the banks are not able to process it. It has an impact on my vendors because they all work on a certain timeline for their payments.

‘There has to be a priority for the health care sector. It is not the same as buying eggs, or chicken, or meat.

‘Nobody is going to die if I don’t import enough beef but if I don’t import enough medicines, in time they could.’


Shaligram says one his biggest challenges is getting trained manpower. One of his ambitions is to train enough locals to replace expatriate workers.

He is also looking at starting a nursing college.

‘You require highly trained people. Right now, my only source is expats. There is a reason for that.

‘How do you train a local in how to use a cath lab when you don’t have that in the country?’

Finding the right technology is also challenging. ‘Sourcing any kind of medical technology is hard and very complicated.

‘This is not an enterprise planned out for a couple of years or a couple of months. It is an enterprise planned out for the next three decades at least.

‘I need to get control of one of the variables. If the costs are low, the numbers will increase. If the numbers increase then the costs will come down.

‘So what is in my control is the cost.’


  1. Bethsheba Martin says:

    I thank PIH for their service. I am a patient myself.When attended at emergency and diagnosed as heart patient they referred me straight to cardiologists,all test and scan done immediately to find out the cause. And commenced treatment ment right away.Am impressed with how equipped they are with equipment and specialist to quickly do all the test and scan on my heart to get the diagnosis.

  2. Max Mandi says:

    PIH has been and will set the way forward for PNG health.
    Some few examplse;
    1. Cat Scan: After PIH, other hospitals including public are introducing it. So is MRI
    2. Hemodyalisis machine. Just awhile ago it was only PIH
    3. Now Cathe Lab and CABG surgery: soon the public hospitalsector will set up these

    PIH has truly been an eye opener and leader in health care in PNG.
    Thank you PIH

  3. Magea Pole says:

    I would like to thank PIH because I had my angiogram done there by the interventional cardiologist. Very highly qualified professionals.

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