Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

Health workers passion matched by East Cape facility upgrades

After losing her mum at age seven, Sister Helen Gando started caring for her two younger siblings on Misima Island, Milne Bay Province. She was the first to wipe away tears and bandage wounds using traditional remedies – early signs of the caring nature that would eventually lead her to become a nurse.

“Many people found cleaning wounds appalling,” Sr Gando recalled, “but for me it was through seeing my little ones smiling again after I tended to a grazed leg or a scratched arm that I knew I wanted to serve others.”

For more than a decade Sr Gando has served as a nurse at Milne Bay’s East Cape Health Centre – a major referral point for Alotau General Hospital from East Fergusson, Normanby Island and Losuia.

The health centre provides important medical triage for patients before they can get to the hospital, but for many months staff were challenged by insufficient water supply for the outpatient clinic, labour room and patient laundry. Water was often fetched in bowls for handwashing and cleaning medical equipment which presented a major risk to the transmission of diseases, including Covid-19.

Today Sr Gando and her team are seeing positive changes through a United Church of PNG project that included installation of a 9,000-litre water tank.

Sister Helen Gando using the newly installed sink at the health centre.

The new sinks and the tank installed outside the health centre.

The upgrade was supported by the Australian Government through the Church Partnership Program and includes gutters, water pipes, sinks and a solar powered pump to provide clean, safe and efficient access to water throughout the health centre.

“The new equipment has helped us immensely. It cuts down on time as we no longer have to go out and fetch water to attend to the sick, including mothers giving birth,” Sr Gando said. “In our job every minute saved can also save a life”.

This project also included vital community awareness on COVID-19 with church leaders, health workers and community leaders.

East Cape Health Centre is among 80 institutions – including schools and health centres – across the country which have received Church Partnership Program supported water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to promote COVID-19 safety measures and protect communities from the potentially devastating impacts of the pandemic.

The Church Partnership Program is a partnership between PNG and Australia that supports churches to improve their capacity to deliver crucial services, including health care in remote areas, and strengthening resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further information, including access to related materials, please contact the Australian High Commission media team: +675 7090 0100