A NEW disease control centre at Kokoda Station will play a frontline role in detecting and treating tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria in local communities.

The centre, the first of its kind in Oro Province, was funded by Rotary New South Wales with assistance from the Australian Government through its Kokoda Initiative development partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea.

It will serve a population of more than 16,000 people on the northern half of the Kokoda Track.

A similar health centre constructed by the Kokoda Initiative at Sogeri last year serves communities on the southern side of the track.

Like the Sogeri clinic, the Kokoda Station facility is a fully equipped laboratory, enabling testing for key diseases including HIV and TB.

It manages patients with follow up visits and monitors TB medication compliance to safeguard against the development of drug resistant strains.

The centre is located away from the main Kokoda Memorial Hospital to minimise the risk of infected patients passing diseases onto others.

Australian High Commission program manager, Veronika Damena said the new building has been designed to meet the PNG National Health Service standards which reflect the PNG Government’s intention to transform the health system, improve primary health care and deliver improved services for the rural majority and urban disadvantaged.

The opening of the centre coincided with a three-day meeting between Hiri and Sohe district health officials, and representatives of the Kokoda Initiative and Australian High Commission.

The meeting identified family health services and disease control as top priorities for support under the Australia-PNG development partnership.

The Kokoda Initiative supports health, education and sanitation improvements for Kokoda Track communities, and works with PNG stakeholders to conserve the region’s natural environment and its unique heritage value. It also supports track safety, maintaining a radio network for local communities and ensuring airstrips are properly maintained.

The program has been working closely with Hiri and Sohe districts for the past seven years to support basic health service delivery.

This includes support for 96 health volunteers and 25 health workers along the Kokoda corridor. The program has built four new health facilities and supports 21 health centres in the three catchments it works in.