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Complete rehabilitation of Palau’s Northern Community Health Center leads to improved patient-focused care and strengthened health systems in Palau

Govt. Palau
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The rehabilitated Northern Community Health Center (NCHC), Ngarchelong state, was handed over to the Ministry of Health and Human Services (MHHS) and the people of Palau, through a handover event held at the NCHC on the 15th of November 2021. The rehabilitation has led to safe, welcoming facilities for patients, as well as an attractive working environment for medical staff, leading to more efficient and sustainable healthcare systems required for healthier populations.

Details of the handover event:

A handover event of the completed SCHC was held at the site of the SCHC, located in Peleliu, on the 9th of December 2021. The event confirmed the official transfer of ownership of the improved health centers to Palau’s Ministry of Health and Human Services. The event was attended by Temmy L. Shmull, the Governor of Peleliu; High Chief Obakeldelolk Singeo; Eufrasia W. Remeliik, Peleliu Legislature Speaker; Robert Scaria, Honorary Consul of India to the Republic of Palau; Sherilynn Madraisau, Director, Bureau of Public Health; Dr. Ngirachisau Mekoll, Medical Director, Palau CHC; Scott Yano, Chairman of CHC Board; Idip and Rufina Takashi, Nursing MHHS; Representatives of the Bureau of Public Works and the Capital Improvement Program; additional members of the CHC Board; Jean Paul Vion, UNOPS: media representatives from the Office of the President and others. The event included speeches by honorable guests, prayers, a ribbon cutting ceremony and lunch.

Improved health delivery thanks to the project:

With a USD$ 1.65 million grant from the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, UNOPS supported Palau’s Ministry of Health and Human Services to strengthen the healthcare system of Palau by providing adequate facilities to deliver patient-focused care, as well as improved and safe working conditions for medical staff.

Under this collaboration, and in alignment with the United Nations Pacific Strategy (2018-2022), the project fully rehabilitated two Community Health Centers, namely the complete renovation of the Northern and Southern Community Health Centers, as well as the partial rehabilitation of the Western Community Health Center. Following the handover event, the NCHC is completed and handed over to the Ministry of Health and Human Services. The SCHC is also complete and expected to be handed over by the first week of December.

The full rehabilitation of the Northern and Southern Centers included replacing the septic system, cabinetry and related plumbing, electrical works, A/C installation and roofing. Additionally, the centers have been made ready for renewable energy upgrades (photovoltaic systems) and emergency backup power. This is in line with the ambitious agenda of the Ministry of Health and Human Services, to enhance primary care through a staged CHC upgrade approach. Having completed this first rehabilitation stage, UNOPS will be ready to support and advise the Ministry of Health and Human Services in achieving their goals.

Ensuring no one is left behind:

To support Palau in providing happy and purposeful lives for its populations, the project focused on inclusive and equitable health opportunities by tackling the disparities in accessing health facilities that stem from remoteness and socio-economic conditions. To improve health delivery to those in vulnerable situations, the rehabilitation also ensured that the facilities became accessible to people living with disabilities, by ensuring accessibility by wheelchairs, as well as inclusive upgrading of the bathrooms and treatment rooms.

The provision of quality patient-focused care depends on adequate facilities that prioritize sanitation and hygienic conditions. To return quality primary healthcare to the community, the infrastructure solutions delivered by the project focused on improving the provision of basic and critical primary care services locally to residents of the island. This achievement of bringing primary healthcare back to the community level through the rehabilitated CHCs plays an important role in the MHHS strategy to provide preventive care in the local communities, whilst also easing the burden on the hospital, reducing premature death and improving quality of life.

Sustainable solutions for the long term:

Recognizing the important role resilient and green infrastructure solutions hold in tackling climate-induced vulnerabilities of Small Islands Developing States, the rehabilitation of all health centers prioritised resilience and sustainability, as well as the mainstreaming of efficiency in energy performance. This approach is in line with UNOPS belief that smart infrastructure solutions, built to last, can protect the people of Palau from the world’s most difficult challenges, including natural hazards and climate change vulnerabilities.

To ensure infrastructure that is resilient, inclusive and responsive to the needs of users, the project focused on transparency, excellence and accountability for results, seeing infrastructure as a system and understanding the synergies between the physical asset, its environment and the knowledge and institutions which support it. This meant climate proofing the rehabilitation, working closely with stakeholders and using appropriate materials for aggressive coastal environments. This resulted in rehabilitated CHCs that are fit for purpose with longevity and adapted to their environments, leading to sustainable development.

To maximize long term benefits for the community, special attention was paid to capacity building during project implementation. This included a focus on transferring knowledge to local contractors at each stage of construction, mainstreaming health and safety protocols and working closely with the government to develop building codes. The approach aligns with UNOPS values of building national capacity and ownership, as a key foundation of sustainability.

Speaking about the project:

President Surangel S. Whipps Jr., said: “On behalf of the People of Palau, I wish to extend my deepest appreciation to UNOPS, the South-South cooperation of the UN India Partnership Fund and the Government and People of the Republic of India for their great partnership and support in the rehabilitation project of the Northern Community Health Center. I strongly believe that this newly-improved infrastructure will provide an accessible, safe, and comfortable space for community members to receive quality and efficient primary healthcare services.”

UNOSSC, said: “UNOSSC, through the India-UN Fund, was pleased to support Palau’s infrastructure to provide better health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we work to build back better, with more resilient systems and services, the relevance of this support is most evident.”

Ms. Samina Kadwani, UNOPS Director for the Pacific, Thailand and Indonesia, said:

“UNOPS is glad to be handing over the rehabilitation community health centers to the Ministry of Health and Human Services and people of Palau, in the knowledge that people across Palau now have improved quality health delivery and patient-care. We are proud to have been a part of the South-South cooperation and remain committed to improving the lives of Palauans, by building the future through infrastructure for climate action.”

Mr. Jean Paul Vion, UNOPS Construction Management Engineer, Palau, said:

“As we hand over the improved Community Health Centers to the people of Palau, I am glad to say that they are truly sustainable. In line with UNOPS values, resilience and climate adaptation were considered throughout the design and construction, ensuring infrastructure solutions that protect against and combat climate change. Equally, the focus on capacity building and institutional strengthening, mainstreamed throughout the project, contributes to developing long term capacity and national ownership, which is the key to sustainability.”

The project is thanks to a partnership between the India-UN Development Partnership fund, the Ministry of Health and Human Services in Palau, and UNOPS.

The handover of the second fully refurbished CHC, located in Peleliu, will be held in the first week of December. The event will mark the official handing over of the refurbished centers to the Ministry of Health and Human Services and the people of Palau.


Notes to the editors:

Photos of the handover event can be found here - photo credit: EmeralDreams Marketing Services dba Palau Blue Productions

Photos of the broader project can be found here - photo credit: UNOPS

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