FAQs Returned Volunteers



Getting health projects up and running

Published on 20th October 2014

The old nurses’ accommodation for St Mary’s was 80 years old when VSA volunteer Phil Dolby started his assignment at the CADR Projects Office.

By all accounts the buildings were run down and not very accommodating. The two new blocks, built on the same spot as the old building, have been open for nearly a year now, housing up to 80 single nurses. Married nurses have family-friendly rooms elsewhere. They are, says nurse Sister Lucy, “jealous they can’t move their families here.”


Designed by a local architect, the two dormitories are (relatively) cool, even before the overhead fans are on. They have inviting common areas, and kitchen and laundry facilities. There’s space on the grounds for nurses to grow food.


Most importantly, Sister Lucy says, “We attract more nurses and they stay longer. When they stay longer, they are more likely to do further study.”


Phil Dolby second from right with counterpart Laisiat second from left and St Marys nursing sisters

Phil Dolby second from right with counterpart Laisiat second from left and St Marys nursing sisters. (Photo by Chris Mitchell.)


Phil points out that the PNG government pays nurses “to a certain number and level, and the ceiling hasn’t gone up in about five years, so the hospital has to find money to pay for the extras.”


With his counterpart Laisiat, Phil has just had funding approved for a new rural health centre, and has another three or four in the pipeline. “Most of the job,” says Laisiat, “is writing.” It’s an exhausting sounding process, though Phil and Laisat are clearly used to the trials and setbacks.


Because most of their proposed projects are in inaccessible areas, it’s hard to estimate costs. Communication can take up to three months, relying on mail and messengers, and there have to be contingencies for getting materials to site (by boat, or even being carried on foot).


It’s hard to organise around that sort of thing, Phil says, so they have another 20 submissions planned while two major projects, including a 1.5 million kina proposal for a remote health centre, await donor approval. In the meantime, they’re responsible for the upkeep of the Archdiocese’s existing projects, for which they have their own local carpenter, who also provides training. Laisat says he’ll assemble a team for each project, train them and “they’re straight on the job. Better to do it that way so the community’s involved and they take ownership of the project.”


This article originally appeared in Vista magazine, Issue two 2014.



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