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Kidney disease is the sixth ranked life threatening sickness in Papua New Guinea. However, the provision of medical care for people living with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is often overlooked because of the lack of awareness, funding for support facilities, equipment and trained medical staff.
This was the case for Papua New Guineans for a very long time, until 2009, when a group of like-minded entrepreneurs got together to discuss how they can help people living with CKD.
Out of these discussions, the PNG Kidney Foundation (PNGKF) was formed with the intent to provide affordable and quality dialysis services to all Papua New Guineans regardless of status.
Led by businessman and philanthropist Sir Martin Poh, his involvement is the determination to create a service that grew out of an eager response to the needs of people. He then took charge of leading the effort to raise funds to purchase a piece of land for the construction of an outpatient dialysis centre.
“We started this simply because there was no kidney treatment in the country. This is charity. We first used a space in my home for two dialysis machines, then we moved these to Port Moresby General Hospital in 2014. Due to limited space, we were restricted to installing only two dialysis machines at PMGH. Each machine could only treat eight patients on maximum machine capacity,” Sir Martin explains.
After the machines were installed and functional, the number of patients waiting in line to be treated quickly increased to 100. This led to the relocation of the PNGKF dialysis centre to Kennedy Estate in 7 Mile, in March 2018.
Since then, 2800 sessions of dialysis treatment have been fully subsidised by PNGKF with no treatment fees to patients. To date PNGKF has provided more than 5000 sessions of dialysis treatments to Papua New Guineans who otherwise could not afford treatment abroad.
“Over the years, PNGKF has been working on the ultimate dream – a place we can call our home. A place where we can serve the people of Papua New Guinea,” Sir Martin says.
The involvement of private sector players in establishing the PNGKF to ultimately provide an essential service that would have been too costly for the State is fully supported by government.
“The way forward is private, public partnership. A PPP arrangement is important if we are to share ideas and skills. Where government will fall short, the private sector can come in and take over so we have this service available and accessible to the people of Papua New Guinea. The challenges are obvious and we need to come together and cooperate,” says Minister for Health Elias Kapavore.
“We will enter into some kind of PPP arrangement with the PNG Kidney Foundation to share the skill level. Our staff from here (PNGKF) can go out there (POM General Hospital) and teach the staff. Some of the staff from there (POM Gen) can come here, so we have this partnership arrangement. We need to strengthen these partnerships and make them more and more effective. It is important that the people of Papua New Guinea have access to basic health services.
Chronic kidney disease is one of many non-communicable diseases (NCD) that is fast becoming more prevalent in PNG as a result of poor lifestyle choices.
Because more and more people fail to maintain a healthy body and weight, quit smoking, avoid daily exercise, and consume excessive amounts of alcohol everyday (ideally a woman should not consume more than one alcoholic drink a day and no more than two drinks for men), the cost of treating NCDs becomes a huge burden to the provision of public health care.
“Government is committed to supporting the PNG Kidney Foundation. There is no set up like this in any other hospital in the country, so that’s an issue that the government has to take up. We cannot keep relying on the private sector to run this service for our people. In the future we would like to see this kind of set up at our general hospital. More and more people are coming from the New Guinea Islands region and the South to access this service so we have to look at possibly equipping other regions as well,” Minister Kapavore said.
Commending PNGKFs work to sustain the dialysis centre without a fee, Minister Kapavore admits a lot of work to help public health service delivery goes unrecognised.
“Sir Martin, thank you very much for making this facility available to us. Theres a lot of things these people are doing behind the scene and they must be commended. Because of this facility, users are living longer as doctors have the capacity to see them, they can live a normal life and they can go back to their communities.”
National Department of Health (NDoH) Secretary Pascoe Kase said the partnership with PNGKF cushions the high cost of health service delivery which otherwise is borne by the State and as a result can result in high costs for patients.
“Because we are facing financial hardship in the public service, going into partnership is very important. We want to invite the private sector to come in, they will do their private business but there will be a public service component – providing a service that ordinary Papua New Guineans can access. That is why we must open the door for the private sector to come in. If the private sector can put in the equipment, we can partner with them, we have the experts. This allows government to subsidise costs as these kinds of services are so critical, but it costs a lot of money to run a dialysis centre.”
When people do not choose to live healthier lifestyles, non-communicable diseases like kidney disease quickly creeps in. PNGs public health system continues to be burdened by the prevalence of NCDs like diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart attacks, blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and cancer which are the leading cases presented at all centres.
Type II diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease in PNG and as a result many more people are now presenting to hospitals with CKD as one of the leading complications.
PNGKF is determined to provide affordable and quality dialysis services to patients dealing with chronic kidney disease but also assist with awareness campaigns, help train NDoH staff and provide technical advice on the provision of dialysis treatment in the country.
The PNG Kidney Foundation adheres to international guidelines that care for haemodialysis patients.
–By PNG Kidney Foundation