Missionary Diary: Health care in remote PNG

MAF Australia’s Jeroen and Diana Zwijnenburg have been serving in Papua New Guinea since August 2021. Jeroen serves as MAF’s Projects & Finance Manager, while Diana is seconded from MAF to work as a doctor at Kompiam Hospital in the remote north Enga Province, an area listed as one of the most disadvantaged in PNG. 

Word got around that the clinic team was coming to Yambaitok again. Many people walked for hours to get to be seen by the Kompiam clinic team.

From February 2-4, 2022, I was part of a team that flew with MAF from Kompiam District Hospital, Enga Baptist Health Service to the Highland village of Yambaitok for a health patrol. It had been three months since this outstation was visited last. Yambaitok is very remote and difficult to reach without a plane.

Community Health Worker (CHW) Patrick is stationed here. The aid post is very busy and is currently caring for a much wider area than Yambaitok alone, since there’s some unrest around the nearest community and aid post in Yenkisa.

The health patrol team consisted of dentist Dr Camy Thomas, dental assistant/CHW Rebecca Saka, CHW Jacky Lawa, and me (Diana), a medical doctor. We brought various supplies with us, including malaria testing kits and treatment, various childhood vaccines, family planning items, pain relief and much more.

Dental education in remote PNG Diana Zwijnenburg/ MAF

On arrival at Yambaitok, we were welcomed and announcements were made about the expected proceedings. Many patients walked for hours to get to Yambaitok to be seen.

Because only half a day was left, immunisations, malaria testing, pregnancy care and family planning were prioritised. All other cases would be seen after this.

Dr Camy and Rebecca set up a makeshift dental clinic and started teaching everyone about proper oral health, healthy food choices and general dental check-ups. Then they proceeded to do fillings and tooth extractions.

One father had carried his four-year-old son all the way from Yenkisa to be seen. This is about a day’s walk. His boy was suffering from malaria, which we treated. We also gave treatment for worms and anaemia, which would help his recovery. His immunisations were updated, and the two were supplied a mosquito net to prevent being bitten again.

One elderly man with chronic abdominal pain was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer. Sadly, there was not much we could do, but we explained what the problem was and were able to treat his pain. We also prayed with him and hope that our witness will help him to get to know Jesus, so that, even though he will die from this disease, his soul will live forever with Jesus.

We all worked until it was too dark to see, and continued to see patients early the next morning. It remained busy until mid-afternoon, when it seemed that everyone had been seen. This was excellent timing as it started to rain heavily. The bustling market and other people all disappeared quickly.

Overall, we were fortunate to be able to treat most of the patients that presented and did not have to take anyone back with us to Kompiam hospital for further care or surgery.

Jeroen and Diana Zwijnenburg

Jeroen and Diana Zwijnenburg

During our stay we managed to do:

·       75 childhood vaccinations

·       30 general/ nutritional children’s checks

·       gave Vitamin A to four children

·       diagnosed and treated six malaria patients

·       14 antenatal visits, of which many were already well along in their pregnancy and only now had their first visit

·       removed and reinserted five family planning implants

·       saw another 58 patients with a variety of illnesses.

The next day, the MAF plane came early to pick us up again and fly us back to Kompiam.

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