COVID Leadership: Training to Improve Health Infrastructure in PNG
Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) alumni Scholar Pope, Irene Semos and Eunice Eva are empowering Papua New Guinean (PNG) healthcare workers to secure funding needed to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
In the WLI team’s second-phase Project Proposal Writing and Management Training for Infrastructure Improvement project, healthcare managers are trained to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure for COVID-19 transmission prevention in New Ireland Province, PNG.
Despite surges in local coronavirus cases occurring while the project was being delivered, the team managed to build the capacity of 22 healthcare workers, including many women, to exercise developmental leadership in their health facilities and districts.
[Image: training participants (left), training materials (right)]
Phase Two: Project Proposal Writing & Management Training, Namatanai District
In the first phase of their WLI Leadership for COVID-19 Response and Recovery project in 2020, Scholar and Irene worked alongside WLI alumni Lomot Rodney to build the capacity of Namatanai District healthcare workers to fund and manage infrastructure improvements.
The team believed filling this “skill gap” not only helps healthcare middle managers identify funding available to improve health infrastructure for COVID-19 transmission prevention, but also builds participants’ leadership capacity.
When the project entered a second phase in late 2021, Scholar, Irene and Eunice expanded their efforts to Kavieng District, New Ireland Province.
There, they worked with local consultants to design training for and build the capacity of middle management staff to improve health infrastructure in the region.
Ultimately, the project aims to impart the skills and knowledge health managers need to “outsource funding to improve their facility’s infrastructure”, and make project submissions through government or donor agency systems.
Not only do these skills help equip health facilities, says Scholar, but they can also be utilised in community-based projects or to benefit individual small-medium enterprises.
The team’s phase two project was delivered in October 2021 with support from project assistants Angelyn Pope, Killion Anis and William Passingan, without whom, on-the-ground delivery would not have been possible, says Project Lead Scholar.
Overcoming ‘very strenuous situations’ to successfully deliver training
“We were able to complete the training despite deferrals, cross-hires, very strenuous situations … and a surge of COVID-19 experienced in the province,” explains Scholar.
During three-day training workshops delivered by local consultants, the 22 remaining participants built their project proposal writing and management skills while also increasing their understanding of COVID-19 vaccinations.
According to Scholar, including a 30-minute "vaccination awareness” session during the training created an “unexpected benefit”, with 13 patients being “vaccinated at the training site”.
More importantly, Scholar believes this session encouraged healthcare workers to be vaccinated themselves, including five participants who agreed to do so on-site.
The WLI team also distributed 100 COVID-19 support bags to patients who tested positive to COVID-19 in Kavieng Provincial Hospital’s isolation wards and in home isolation.
The support bags included face masks, soaps and other sanitary items to prevent disease transmission.
“The patients really appreciated the much-needed sanitary bags,” says Scholar.
[Image: delivering COVID-19 support bags (left); COVID-19 support bag contents (right)]
WLI project supports Provincial Health Authority project planning
According to Scholar, another unexpected benefit of the program was the addition of 15 rural health and hospital projects added to the New Ireland Provincial Health Authority (NIPHA) Project Plan, which was, “All possible through the WLI project.”
She explains, “The Project Manager for NIPHA thanked the program as an engine tool in training the rural and hospital staff to identify priority areas in their individual facilities and sections.”
Lessons learned: Respecting hierarchy, building networks, and portraying confidence
The power of building lasting networks in the private and public sector, and respecting hierarchy and leaders’ norms and processes have provided invaluable lessons to Scholar and Irene.
“Being a coordinator of this project, I realised that there will be personal challenges and criticism, especially in a mostly male-dominated arena,” says Scholar, “The confidence you portray in the decisions and roles that you take on-board will reflect in the confidence others have in you as a leader.”
Scholar, Irene and Eunice’s Proposal Writing and Management Training for Infrastructure Improvement project represents one of many phase two COVID-19-related leadership projects conducted by WLI participants and alumni in the Pacific from July to December 2021.
Funded by WLI, teams work collaboratively to scope, develop and implement projects across the Pacific region, with a focus on health, education, safety and security, and agriculture and food security.