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15 Apr 2014

By Dr Vincent Atua, Director, Emergency Department Madang (Modilon) General Hospital

For the past five years there has been a number of Australian registrars in training who have come to Madang, Papua New Guinea, for three to six months at a time, and were able to get their time in PNG recognised towards their Fellow of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (FACEM) specialist training.

The registrars have contributed immensely through their participation and collaboration with their national colleagues, and with the Divine Word University as visiting lecturers in Emergency Medicine.

This has been a mutually beneficial exercise for both Paua New Guinea and the ACEM trainees. The Australian registrars have come away with valuable experiences in tropical medicine, and have personally grown in their time in PNG.

This has come about due to great efforts on the part of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine’s International Emergency Medicine Special Interest Group (IEMSIG), and a few individuals who had a passion for providing such a training opportunity.


From 1995 there had been a desire to establish a specialist emergency medicine program in PNG. But the idea was left on the backburner for several years until Australian and American support came on board in 2002 with support for resident and visiting emergency physician practitioners and instructors.

The first locally-trained specialist Emergency Physician (EP) graduated in 2007, and since then PNG eight more have graduated in what has become an ongoing specialist pathway for junior doctors.

Financial contributions from AusAID helped support and encourage the program, which has seen a number of Australian EPs visit Port Moresby General Hospital and, more recently, Madang (Modilon) General Hospital and Divine Word University, to provide teaching as well support  to the onsite registrars.

However, much of cost has been borne by the individuals involved.

Benefits to PNG

Huge improvements have been made in the way emergency medicine is practised in the country, most notably in a better organisational culture and improving patient outcomes.

Ongoing technical support has seen a major emergency department redevelopment at Port Moresby General Hospital, and plans are afoot to redevelop all emergency departments nationally. Courses in emergency medicine have been developed at the University of Papua New Guinea and Divine Word University, in particular, to improve capacity.

A major spin off of the ACEM involvement has been the introduction of the Primary Trauma Care course, which has gained huge popularity, and has attracted domestic funding to train a large group of primary health care workers.

To date, more than 50 PTC Courses have been delivered to over 500 participants. In addition, the Emergency Life Support Course (ELS Course) has been delivered to more than 100 doctors and Health Extension Officers and nurses in the last six years.


As many specialists have spent training time in Australian hospitals, there is a very pro-Australian culture in the PNG medical profession to build on concerning training opportunities for Australian registrars.

This depends, however, on the Australian specialist medical colleges recognising PNG specialists who are suitably experience or qualified to provide this supervision. The benefits to the specialty concerned are immense for a developing country like PNG, and it is hoped that the registrars will be able to get funding as well as professional recognition for their time abroad in a not so parallel medical system.


Published: 15 Apr 2014