By Sarah Byrne

A HEALTH Baseline study completed by Nautilus Minerals in the second quarter will be used to develop a health plan for the local community.

Having received a preliminary copy of a report completed in June this year by consultants Abt JTA, Nautilus will review the findings with the New Ireland provincial administration.

A workshop will be held with key stakeholders, including all levels of government, to develop a health plan or a range of health programs based on the findings of the study.

Villages along the west coast of New Ireland near the Nautilus Solwara 1 project were included in the study.

Focus areas were infrastructure, supply chain, healthcare worker support and training.

Speaking with PNG Resources, Nautilus vice president PNG operations Adam Wright said delivering sustainable community based programs in the area of health is important to the company.

“In order to do this we need to understand the disease burden and the current state of the healthcare system.”

“This study will help identify key priority areas and develop a health plan which is aligned with government programs.”

Mr Wright said the data will form a baseline to track progress and measure improvements in healthcare outcomes.

Infant and maternal mortality rates are unacceptably high in the region, and New Ireland has the highest incidence of Malaria in PNG, according to a statement on Nautilus Care’s website.

Opportunities exist to improve outcomes in infant/maternal health, water and sanitation and infectious disease control, Nautilus said in a statement.

Ensuring improvements are sustainable in the long-term is fundamental according to Mr Wright, who said it is essential to work in partnership with government and other resource companies to coordinate efforts on improving healthcare.

During the first half of 2015, Nautilus Minerals completed a Community Needs Assessment in villages located nearest to the Solwara 1 project site.

Nautilus conducted a survey which focused on education, health, finance, employment and standard of living.

Community workers were employed by Nautilus to visit every household in the seven coastal wards and conducted over 1,500 surveys which provided the company with an accurate picture of life on the west coast of New Ireland, Mr Wright said.

The logistics involved in visiting every household was a challenge for the workers, with infrastructure limited and some communities only accessible by boat.

“Despite these challenges we managed to visit every household and found that people were enthusiastic to participate.”

The study will help Nautilus identify key priority areas and formalise its corporate social responsibility strategic plan to ensure it is aligned with community expectations and government plans.

“The survey gives every family a chance to express their views with respect to the project and the benefits they would like to see flowing into the community,” he said.

Implementing improvements in the time available is a challenge, considering the Solwara 1 project has a short mine life and doesn’t offer some of the long-term mine related business development opportunities.

Recognising this, Mr Wright said Nautilus started its programs three years ahead of the production phase.

“We need to help communities develop businesses which are truly sustainable which will survey long into the future once we are gone.”