During his transit in Papua New Guinea late last week on his way home after participating in the Asia Pacific Leaders Conclave on Malaria elimination 2023, in New Delhi, India, Health Minister Hon. Dr Culwick Togamana graced the UPNG (University of Papua New Guinea) Solomon Islands student’s graduation celebration.
Along with him the Solomon Islands Ambassador to Papua New Guinea (PNG) Mr. William Soaki, SI Embassy official Mary Walenenea and National Director for Vector Borne Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr Albino Bobogare.
Dr Togamana in his brief remarks at the celebration said that he was well pleased that his transit in PNG coincides with this very important event.
“I was once a student myself and to have national leaders paying visit to us providing encouragements and updates on happenings at home meant a lot, so today being a national leader myself, I have decided to spend time with you all and fortunate enough, our meeting coincides with your graduation celebration which makes our meeting even more special”,
“Moreover, as the Minister of Health and Medical Services, I am very happy to learn that some of you who graduated this week are in the field of medicines and other health and clinical departments which is important as you will add to our pool of human resources”, said Dr Togamana.
He explained that the challenge for the Ministry is to provide the facilities and equipment for these human resources in the field of medicines, laboratory, pharmacy etc. to be able to carry out their duties to serve our population many of whom reside in rural and remote parts of our country.
“This is why the Ministry of Health is rolling out its Role Delineation Policy, with the construction of Area Health Centres and Rural Health Clinics that provides services almost similar to hospital level facilities”,
“We have opened last year Avuavu and Aola Area Health Centres in Guadalcanal, Afio Area Health Centre in South Malaita. Before June this year we hope to open another AHC in Manuopo, Reef Islands in Temotu province and later this year and early next year the following: Area Health Centres in Konide Isabel province, Wagina in Choiseul Province, Tukutaunga in Temotu Province, Guanataea in Malaita, Leona in Western Province and Dedeu in Isabel Province. Apart from this, work on expanding NRH services is ongoing with clearance at the Eastern End of NRH for a comprehensive medical centre”,
“All these will be important to absorb the number of graduates in the medical field every year. Though difficult the Ministry remains committed to implementing this RDP”, assured Dr Togamana.
He encouraged the graduates and students to return home and work in these facilities to help the Ministry deliver services closer to where the majority of the people reside for ease of access to these important health services without any difficulties and financial burdens by the people. “This is the ultimate goal of our Role Delineation policy. I know it can be very challenging working in our rural areas due to lack of basic services but I hope as you progress in your career you get a chance to also serve our people from these rural health centres”, said Dr Togamana.
The Health Minister took the time to also provide briefing on developments happening at home including preparations for the upcoming South Pacific Games 2023 before proceeded to engage in question and answer session with the students.
The Q and A session saw the students frankly raise questions and concerns around recent changes with their graduate training program or residency which will now be done in country instead of in PNG as have been the case in the past years.
Application for licensing to practice medicine in PNG and Solomon Islands was also discussed as well as various aspects of the SIG scholarship for students wishing to study in UPNG.
Health Minister Dr Togamana took the time to respond to every single questions and assured that for some of the issues raised requires detailed responses and clarifications including actions, hence assured that he will follow up upon return to Honiara and see to it that they are provided to the students.
Fred Baerado, 4th year medical student at UPNG and president of the SI Medical Student Association – UPNG Medical Faculty – Taurama Campus thanked Dr Togamana stating that it has been quite a while now since any national leader has paid such a visit to them. “Minister for this we are very grateful for your coming this evening to celebrate with us our achievements. Thank you for words of encouragement and show of concern to issues raised and the responses provided that enables better understanding and we hope you will follow up on some of these upon your return hope. Thank you Minister”, said the president Mr. Baerado.