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Media Releases, 25 April 2013

PNG LNG Project supports training for malaria diagnosis

A partnership between the PNG LNG Project and the Australian Army Malaria Institute (AMI) has seen 12 malaria microscopists attend a five-day course to sharpen their skills in diagnosing malaria.

Microscopy is the term for using microscopes to view samples and objects that are too small to be seen with an unaided eye.

The course, which ran in early April, focused on accurate species identification and parasite counting. It is part of the Project’s on-going support to improve health capacity across Papua New Guinea.

Competency and accreditation assessments were performed using the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) international standards for malaria microscopy. WHO recognises four levels of competency, with level one being the highest.

Three participants who were ranked level four in previous years have now achieved level two ranking after this recent assessment. International SOS Medical Laboratory Technologist, Henao Rakatani, a participant of the recent training, said the assessment is a first of its kind that she has had the opportunity to attend.

“We need to be competent in our diagnosis so we can provide patients with the best possible care. This course has helped us learn our own competency and to constantly improve our skills. It has been a great privilege to participate,” she concluded.

Esso Highlands Limited Medicine and Occupational Health Deputy, Dr Moses Lester, said training and educating laboratory technicians is a critical component of managing malaria.

“By offering this course to key medical institutions across the country, we are providing opportunities to improve diagnosis and medical treatment,” Dr Lester said.

In addition to improving capacity within health care providers, the PNG LNG Project has provided permethrin treated clothing, insect repellent, 7,000 protective nets to its workforce and supported a number of civil society organisations to distribute treated nets to communities, and continuing malaria prevention awareness for both its workforce and the community.

Ken Lilley, Quality Manager and Scientist at AMI, facilitates the course as part of the Australian Government’s commitment to assist its South West Pacific neighbours.

“There is increased pressure on microscopists to diagnose malaria accurately. Determining competency provides critical feedback for how to improve the ability of technicians to perform their tasks better,” he said.

The participants included representatives from the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Oil Search Limited, OK Tedi Mining Limited, International SOS and the Papua New Guinea Central Public Health Laboratory.