Papua New Guinea: Johanniter Medical Team Started to Work

Berlin / Port Moresby, 22 April 2021

Strong increase in severe COVID-19 cases ++ International medical assistance requested

World Health Organization (WHO) had issued an international appeal for medical assistance in Papua New Guinea after a significant increase in COVID-19 cases were registered in the Southeast Asian country. Since 14 April, a seven-person Johanniter team is supporting the care of patients.

Johanniter‘s sister organisation, St John Ambulance Papua New Guinea - which has been providing community healthcare and emergency services in the country for many years - is setting up a field hospital with 296 beds on behalf of the government. The hospital‘s main purpose is to isolate and care for patients suffering from COVID-19. The Australian government is providing St John with the financial resources.

"The new cases are associated with more severe illness than the previously seen in 2020. We are facing the potential collapse of health services in Port Moresby and around the country. A large number of hospital workers - over 120 staff - at Port Moresby General and National Capital District Health Authority (NCDPHA) are now positive for COVID-19", reports Matthew Cannon, Chief Executive Officer of St. John Ambulance Papua New Guinea. For this reason, St John asked Johanniter for a medical support team.

Seven-member Medical Team is on Duty

On 11 April, Johanniter sent a team to Port Moresby consisting of a doctor, two emergency paramedics, two paramedics and two nurses. The volunteers come from Berlin, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Bavaria and Vienna. On 14 April, they began their four-week assignment at the "Florence Nightingale COVID Centre", where they isolate and provide medical care to patients suffering from COVID-19 with mild to moderate symptoms. "29 patients were waiting for us on the first morning shift, and we provided them with medication and food," says team leader and paramedic Manfred Emmerling.

On the second day, a surprising field mission came up: Manfred Emmerling, together with Dr Wolfgang Pramendorfer and Idana Enai, an intensive care nurse from St John, flew with a small propeller plane to the other side of the island. From there, they brought a patient in critical condition to the capital for treatment. "The mission was very exciting and thrilling, as medical evacuations in small planes and small cabins are not an everyday occurrence for us," Emmerling reports.

"We are very happy to be able to support the work of our sister organisation St John Ambulance in this difficult situation. This is also a special assignment for our dedicated helpers in a challenging time for everyone," says Magdalena Kilwing, Head of the Emergency Response Desk at Johanniter International Assistance.


Papua New Guinea has experiencing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the country since February 2021. As of 4 April 2021, a total of over 7,000 confirmed cases, including 61 deaths, have been reported. The total number of reported cases and deaths is likely to be significantly underestimated due to under-reporting and very limited testing across the country. 19 of Papua's 22 provinces have already reported COVID-19 cases.


St John Ambulance Papua Neuguinea

St John Ambulance Papua New Guinea is part of the worldwide Order of St John and is registered as an independent charity organisation in the country since 1957. St John is primarily active in ambulance, emergency care and pre-hospital care and is part of the nationwide air ambulance. The organisation also offers first aid courses. St John Papua New Guinea has played a crucial role in providing medical care to the population on behalf of the government since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. In addition to the new field hospital, St John supports testing, warehousing and distribution of protective clothing, masks and gloves, and contributes significantly to the nationwide immunisation programme.

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