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Midwifery Training Crisis Looming for Health Sector

Midwifery courses in the country are in danger of closing down.

This follows a distinct lack of financial support from the PNG government to ensure that these courses remain open.

In the country, five institutions offer midwifery courses:
1. University of Goroka
2. Pacific Adventist University
3. Divine Word University through its St Mary’s Vunapope campus
4. Luthern School of Nursing and
5. The University of Papua New Guinea

So far, the largest support for midwives training in the country has been by the Australian Government through their Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or DFAT.

It has been offering scholarships to 20 nurses per tertiary institution annually, to take up these courses. This has ensured that from 2012 to 2015, over 400 midwives have been trained raising the number of midwives in the country to over 700. This arrangement which was supposed to only last 4 years, is coming to a close, and  is a causing the coordinators of these courses to panic.

Some, such as the University of Goroka and the Pacific Adventist University, are in danger of shutting down these courses because the end of scholarship will mean they will not have enough students enrolled to meet the university’s requirement.

As DFAT phases out, with only 10 scholarships per school for this year, the course coordinators are employing drastic measures and a lot of cooperation and understanding to ensure their schools remain open.

This year, St Mary’s Vunapope School of Nursing had to give up 5 of its scholarship space to the University of Goroka in order for the course to remain open.

St May’s Vunapope School of Nursing was the latest addition to the list of five with training commencing mid this year.

To ensure the course remains open next year, they are now knocking on doors such as the Local Level Government offices to pitch in as alternative sponsors for this training.

The other schools, who do not have requirements, are considering the possibility of shutting down their courses in order to ensure that courses at the UoG and PAU remain open.

Elizabeth Natera from the Lutheran School of Nursing said, “What is happening to the K2million allocated for health through DSIP? We are now asking if each district can sponsor two nurses each for next year that will really help.”

The government recognises that maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the country have reached emergency proportions, even setting up a maternal mortality task force to look into the matter.

To improve the statistic of 733 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest in the region, the government plans that by 2030 all community health centres in the country should have one midwife.

“I want to ask the Health Minister,” says Paula Puawe from the University of Goroka, “where is he going to get the midwives to place in those health facilities? As an educator I don’t see the government support in this area.”

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