The clinical competency of community health workers in the eastern highlands province of Papua New Guinea

H E Ashwell, P Freeman
Papua and New Guinea Medical Journal 1995, 38 (3): 198-207
A case study of the clinical competency of community health workers employed in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea was conducted in March 1993. Of the 79 who graduated from the Onamuga Community Health Worker Training School between 1989 and 1992, only 24 were currently employed in the province. Current knowledge and clinical competency were compared with results on completion of basic community health worker training. Results showed that 22 of the 24 maintained their knowledge competency, and 15 maintained clinical competency. It was found that those community health workers (CHWs) employed at a health subcentre use 40% to 50% of their skills, whilst those at a district health centre or provincial hospital use only 20% to 30% of their skills. Only 8% of the CHWs studied used all the skills obtained in their basic training. This study indicates that the CHW is being viewed by some health managers as a replacement for the nurse aide. If CHWs' skills are to be maintained, certainly good supervision, inservice training and adequate logistic support are needed, but so also is a change in management thinking. The CHW has been trained specifically to improve the access to essential primary health care services of people living in rural areas, especially in preventive and maternal and child health care. If in practice the CHW is not given the opportunity to practise and hence maintain these skills, the whole logic of the CHW training scheme will need to be reexamined.

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