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Working in Papua New Guinea-Some Challenges

Updated on December 24, 2015

Working in an undeveloped country require considerable physical and mental effort. It is not a place for those who are faint-hearted, those who lack patience, those who prefer comfort and those who want things they need are within their reach and work by certain standards. There will be a lot of disappointments. I have worked with and seen many expats with one or two year contract leave just after their first visit to the country. Discussed below are seven reasons why installing, servicing, repairing medical, dental and laboratory equipment in hospitals (private and government run), laboratories, educational and research institutions, mining and food industries in Papua New Guinea is physically and mentally exhausting.

1. Extreme Environmental Conditions

  • Like most tropical countries moisture level in the air is very high ie. humidity level is greater than 90%). Fungal growth and rust occur at a very fast rate. It is the major cause of equipment failure. High humidity can also cause too much discomfort and tire one sooner than expected.
  • Corrosion is another major cause of equipment failure. Equipment or parts corrode at a very fast rate and are replaced sooner than anticipated.
  • Dust is another cause of equipment failure. Too often you will find dusts on sensors and optical systems and therefore affect equipment performance.
  • Insects, cockroaches, and rats make their home in the equipment, they chew on internal components, make their homes or excrete and urinate on boards and affect performance of equipment and/or damage the equipment.

2. Poor or Lack of Support Facilities

A constant source of power is necessary in running an equipment. Water is also needed for some equipment to function properly. However, this two basic facilities are not always available.

  • Power disruption is a normal occurance. Sometimes happens without warning. A lot of equipment are damaged (faulty power boards) because of this. Surge protectors and backup power supplies eg. ups are often not always available.
  • Some equipment require water. Lack of running water or low water pressure happen without warning also and therefore cause damage to equipment.
  • Air conditioning systems are usually used to control air temperature in the room where equipment are kept, this equipment like all the other equipment are not efficient because of corrosion, overworked because of high temperatures and humidity.

3. Limited Technical Resource

  • Working on equipment can be very dauntng when there is no technical or service manuals, diagrams and proper tools.Technical diagrams, service manuals and special tools are sometimes not available as not all equipment sold are well supported in the country.
  • Spare parts and components are not readily available. If ordered, parts will take a week or more before they arrive.
  • Some of the equipment or meter require certification to a certain standard. This service are not available locally.
  • Some jobs eg. installation of x-rays, require specialised skills. Specialist or certified persons are not available locally.
  • Lack of qualified technical specialist eg. no radiologist to operate the x-ray, interpret images and treats patients.

4. Financial Limitations

Money is often an issue when it comes to Installing, repairing and/or servicing of equipment.

  • Technical or specialist expertise are usually needed.The hire rates are usually high.
  • Routine services (preventative maintenance) were not carried out as often as required because of the cost involved.
  • It is often difficult to source out equipment that is appropriate and less expensive for the user. The western society is ahead in technology (more automated) and with high emphasis on QA/QC. This are usually more expensive.

5. Social Issues

Becasue of the social issues in the country,

  • Technical specialist are difficult to bring into the country. Some are not covered (insured) to work in a high risk country like Papua New Guinea.
  • More than one person travels to job site, which is costly and a waste of time.

6. Geographical Barriers

High rainfall and the rugged terrain implies limited road networks and poor road conditions. Air and sea transport are widely used.

  • Regular visits to the customers outside town are rare because of lack of road networks within the country.
  • Most or nearly all site visits are via air. Air travel is too costly particularly when several trips are required every year.
  • Air transport is widely used in transporting equipment to customers. Very large equipment can not be sent via air. They are transported to the customer via sea and then via land. Poor road conditions and poor handling are a worry when transporting large equipment.

7: Not Following Handling Protocols and Standard Procedures.

  • Standards are not available. Too often you will find a box that are labelled, ''PLEASE REFRIGIRATE'' or ''FRAGILE! HANDLE WITH CARE'' sitting outside on the office floor overnight or thrown from the truck onto the ground respectively. Refrigerated box usually contain reagents or standards required to check performance of an equipment or an analyser. Equipment are usually packed in boxes which are labelled with ''handle with care''. This is a common practice because of ignorance or lack of general guidelines or handling procedures.

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