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Surgical capability and surgical pathology in Papua New Guinea in the year 2000

Version 2 2024-06-03, 18:36
Version 1 2017-07-26, 14:01
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-03, 18:36 authored by David WattersDavid Watters, WM Kapitgau, P Kaminiel, O Liko, I Kevau, J Ollapallil, P Ponifasio
BACKGROUND: Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country of 4.5 million people with an annual health budget of only 96 million Kina (1K = US$0.35). There are 19 hospitals in the country and national surgeons are now staffing most of these hospitals. This review aims to describe the surgical pathology in the year 2000 and the capability of PNG surgeons to manage it. METHODS: A review of publications, reports and surgical audit data on surgery in PNG was conducted. Surgical audit has been computerized for over 5 years. The review also draws on personal experience and data from MMed theses submitted to the University of Papua New Guinea. RESULTS: Surgical pathology Surgical practice in PNG remains very general. Late presentation and advanced disease are common. Trauma, infection, malignancy and congenital anomalies dominate the surgical scene. The pattern of disease is different from what is found in the West. Western diseases are emerging with the incidence of appendicectomy rising from 5/100,000 to 75/100,000 in the past 30 years. The incidence of diabetes and gallstones has also risen. Osteoporosis, Colles' and neck of femur fractures are rare. Surgical capability The standard of surgical care is acceptable with a low wound infection rate for clean and clean-contaminated abdominal surgery of 0.9% and an anastomotic leak rate of 1.6%. Transurethral prostatectomy is also being performed to a satisfactory standard for head injuries admitted with a Glasgow Coma Score of 6-8 and a good outcome is achieved in over 70% of cases. Hospital mortality for surgical admissions is 3.7%. Subspecialties in orthopaedics, urology and head and neck surgery have been established. Neurosurgery, paediatric and cardiac surgery are being developed. Priorities for the next decade Papua New Guinea needs to continue to develop surgical subspecialties, particularly paediatric and neurosurgery, while maintaining a broad competence in general surgery. Services for burns, spinal injuries, rehabilitation and oncology need to be improved. Surgeons need to be more involved in rural health and teaching basic skills to primary health-care workers. Acquisition, maintenance and repair of surgical equipment needs to be improved so that PNG's well-trained surgeons can have the right tools for their trade. CONCLUSIONS: Papua New Guinea offers a wide range of surgical pathology. The standard of surgery in PNG is reasonable but there are many areas that need development during the period of the next national health plan, 2001-2010. Australasian surgery has many opportunities to assist surgeons in PNG to achieve their objectives.



ANZ journal of surgery






Carlton, Vic.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2001, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons




Blackwell Science Asia