Conversations with the founder
What direction does Sir Theo see for the Sir Theo Foundation moving into 2020 and beyond? Sitting down with Sir Theo in February 2019 offered some intelligence in response to that broad question – and more:2020
5 mins with Sir Theo
Sir Theo, why are you keen to support POMGen?
There are two parts in answer to that question.
First, there is Papua New Guinea itself. I am passionate about Papua New Guinea. It is a fantastic country and one that has not yet achieved its full potential. I want to see the country grow and for all the people of PNG to be a part of that growth.
Second, there is my personal view on the importance of a country having a strong public hospital system. As to that:
- I cannot see the “all-inclusive growth” I hope for PNG being achieved without the country having a true level 7 hospital responsive to local needs.
- POMGen is the country’s centrepiece public hospital.
- For whatever reason, the funding is not there at the moment to meet all the present needs of the hospital from traditional Government sources.
In short, supporting POMGen will help fill a gap that will benefit the people of PNG – and the region – in the short and long term.
How do you respond to those who criticise recourse to philanthropic giving to assist POMGen?
Look, I understand that, and I agree that governments must provide all necessary resources for the adequate health care of the people they serve. Shortfalls in the funding of health services in PNG and the funding of POMGen are a source of frustration for me, and I will consistently agitate for steady and adequate funding for POMGen from our national Government.
But I worry that the responses which criticise can focus attention on the wrong points. You look at hospitals all over the world – including those with an enviable international reputation – and philanthropic giving plays a key role in the services those hospitals provide.
At the same time, while certain public hospitals may, by comparison, be “better” supported by the relevant national government (and I have not looked at the statistics on that), at the end of the day, doing nothing because ‘the government should do more’ only causes suffering to the people caught in the middle.
What do you most want to see for POMGen over the next five years?
That is a big question!
At least half a dozen more operating theatres and a stronger clinic program with super specialists in areas such as cardiology and gastroenterology, for a start.
In particular, I would ideally like a clinic program that is supported by a tele-consult facility and that allows for skill transfer to our local doctors, nurses and support staff.
There are a number of people – and the national Government – supporting POMGen in different ways. I hope, too, that the support currently directed to the hospital continues and grows. We are all working towards the one goal – providing health services to those people of PNG who will not be able to access adequate health care in the absence of a strong national public hospital.
If I interview you in 3 years, what do you hope to be able to say as to the achievements of the Foundation between now and that interview?
3 years? Look what we have done – and thank you to everyone who helped us do it.