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Minister Lokonai addresses health sector officials

The new Minister for Health in the Autonomous Bougainville Government has pledged to do his best to ensure that effective health service delivery reaches down to the people throughout Bougainville.

Hon. Dennis Lokonai in his maiden address to the staff and management of the health sector on Friday last week revealed this adding that he was not new to the sector as he was a former Minister for Health in the last Momis/Masono government.

“As the former Minister for Health in the previous term 2015 to 2020, I am aware of the challenges and impediments that the health sector is faced with, what remedial actions needed to be taken to overcome these challenges and as the new Minister I once again endow with this responsibility to provide political leadership to this key department,” he said.

He thanked the President and the BEC for selecting him to head this ministry and said that he looked forward to working with the team in the Health Sector to efficiently improve health services in the region.

 “I have confidence that you will continue on the good work that the department has been doing and I pledge my support to work together with the Health Sector in ensuring that effective health service delivery is reaching down to the people,” he said.

Minister Lokonai reiterated that there are many challenges that continue to hinder the department from moving forward and some of these burning issues included:

  • Funding constraints in which only less than 1% of the ABG budget is allocated to the health sector annually
  • Deteriorating health facilities throughout the region
  • Aging work force and retrenchment of these officers continue to be a challenge
  • Drug shortage
  • The new ABG Department structure is not fully implemented
  • Officers working without pay due to the fact that another department is responsible for their recruitment and payroll
  • The Buka hospital needs a big improvement in terms of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), sewerage improvement and space for expansion
  • There are needs for district hospitals, like South Bougainville needs one district hospital and one rural hospital, whilst the Atolls also have needs for health centers
  • Health legislations
  • 50% of aid posts are closed and need reopening
  • There are new graduates graduating from our health institutions who are not being absorbed in our health system

Minister Lokonai said he will work proactively with the Secretary of Health and the department to remedy these challenges and see that the people of Bougainville receive the best health services they deserve.  

 “In my term as Minister, I want to see some changes on some of these issues and I will do my best to ensure the ABG funding allocation for the health sector is increased in the budget,” he said.

Minister Lokonai explained that if there was sufficient funding for health, then the aging work force can be retrenched, more hospitals and health centers can be built, closed aid posts can be reopened and the health work force can be put on pay.

Secretary for Health Clement Totavun, stressed however that although the health sector receives limited funding support, the health sector in Bougainville has seen a gradual increase in its health status from being in the 15th spot in 2015 and as of 2022, Bougainville is ranked 5th out of 22 provinces in the country.

He thanked the staff of the health sector for enabling that rating in giving their best despite trying situations, and called on them to continue to work with the new Minister to drive that vision and political direction for the best in health service delivery for Bougainville.

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