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Brief History of Christian Health Services PNG


Historically, the churches have always played on important role in health work in Papua New Guinea. The provision of basic health care, support and assistance was first recognised by the wives of the first missionaries in the 1870s and later by the first trained nurse from the Lutheran Red Cross Missionary in Madang in 1894.

Since then up until now, Churches through their different missions to PNG  (Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Adventist and Methodist have played a leading role in the provision of health care. From the door steps of the missionary houses to the little clinics came some of the hospitals and health centres now seen in various parts of the country.

The early colonial administration encouraged this work and as early as 1920 provided “grants in aid” to assist churches to develop and expand their health services. The PNG Government has continued to provide financial support through grants and today provides almost 80-100% (in most cases) of Church health finances.

After PNG gained independence in 1975 most of the church health facilities were handed over to the national churches by the departing overseas missions and their missionaries. As this was done without proper planning, the question of sustainability and continuity of health work left behind was not seriously thought through

In order to fast-track the transition from missionary management of church health services, to a structured national setting, Christian Health Service of PNG started training Community Health Workers (CHW) to manage the curative and preventive health care at the village level. At the same time many of the middle cadre of Health Workers; nurses were trained to cover the vacancies left by the departing missionary nurses/workers.

Training of health workers throughout PNG continues to be a key focus of Christian Health Services


12th September 1965

First Inter-Mission Medical Conference held at Dogura.

12th – 23th August 1968

Second meeting at Lutheran Mission, Lae. The name changed to “Combined Churches Medical Council”

May 1972

Dr Hakon Hellberg from World Council of Churches came to PNG to study for a year the relationship of health service provided by Churches and health service provided by the government.

21th – 28th July 1972

Churches Medical Council met in Lae, an new constitution was formed

21th – 26th July 1973

CMC met in Port Moresby and a permanent Church/Government Health Liaison Officer was selected by the Churches based in Port Moresby. Dr. Peter Strang was the first person to fill this position from 1973 to late 1975

1975 –  1978

Dr Clifford Smith served as C/GHLO

May 1978 – 1980

Rev. Ken Shakespeare

Jan 1982 – Dec 1982

Decentralisation resulted in the position of C/GHLO being abolished at the National Level

1983 – 1984

Sr. Lesley Slade followed by Bro. Xavier Nicholson filled in as part time executive officer in Port Moresby upon request from the Health Department for someone that could be contacted regarding CMC work.

November 1984

Mr Simon Sopial was employed as the first full-time Executive Officer for CMC. An office space was provided at the Health headquarters at Hohola, NCD

13th January 1986

Mr Pawa Warena began work as the Executive Officer of CMC, PNG