Hard-working PNG Health Workers Deserve Better!

Three weeks ago I was away working when I got an email from my wife telling me that my 1-year-old son was passing blood from his anus and he was being referred to Mt. Hagen General Hospital.

My son had been spiking a fever for about 3 days with upper respiratory tract symptoms. And like most health workers in PNG who tend to treat their own children, we decided to treat him with Septrin and panadol at home. After 3 days of treatment the fever was still there so my wife started him on infant camoquine. This is standard treatment guidelines for fever in children in PNG. However, he did not get better and started vomiting which continued for one whole day. By the end of the day he was severely dehydrated so was admitted to the mission hospital where my wife is a nurse. In the night he vomited black stuff which appeared to be old blood. The next day he started to pass old blood mixed with watery stool which progressed to him passing fresh blood. This was when he was referred to Mt.Hagen General Hospital.

I work on a remote exploration project so I informed my boss and got the company charter out the next day to Mt. Hagen.

Despite the acute on chronic shortages of drugs, ivi fluids and consumables, PNG health workers in the main hospitals work under very trying conditions to deliver quality care. What I have witnessed in Mt.Hagen General Hospital and now at Port Moresby General Hospital is just amazing. I must say here that lives are saved on the hard-working doctors, nurses, CHWs and the allied health workers putting their extra effort. Not because they have the best conditions to work in and the best of things to work with, it is the human touch into their service is what sustaining PNG right now.

And they deserve better!

We have the will and motivation to work but we need the political will to better equip our hospitals, operation theatres, laboratories and an effective drug procurement and delivery system. My son needs to do specialised tests to find the source of bleeding from inside his large intestine but because PMGH does not have the equipment, we now planning to take him to Singapore to get the tests done. Do we have specialists in this area? YES! Do they have the tools to work with? NO!

So come on Hon. Health Minister and PM, put money where your mouth is and help the PNG health workers do their job. Like Churchill once said during the WW II: “give us the tools and we will finish the job”.  Come on Hon. J.M Graham and Hon. P. Oneil, PNG Health Workers Deserve Better.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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3 Responses to Hard-working PNG Health Workers Deserve Better!

  1. I can’t understand why PNG does not have the resources to improve rural medical care. It certainly has enough natural resources of oil, gas and minerals for there to be enough money to provide better services to the people. I do hope your son is getting better in Singapore Rodney.
    Brian Robertson

  2. Rodney Itaki says:

    Thanks Brian. We seem to be starving in the midst of plenti! And now the government of PNG has seen fit to seen PNG students to study medicine in Cuba. I totally fail to see the rational for this. The same issue was brought up sometime back and the medical fraternity in PNG was 200% against the idea. Now it has surfaced again. Someone is clearly pushing for this. WHY??? Clearly the PNG government is willing to spend money – why not spend the money to upgrade the current medical school to accept more students? Why not assisst Divine Word University set up a second medical school in PNG? These are long term and sustainable solutions. Maski lon band aid treatment and knee jerk solutions!

  3. Mr. Matthew David (Health Extension Officer) says:

    Hi Rodney it’s me (Matthew David) again.
    I am srongly with your view.
    During the dawn of Independence week when our PM will come to Goroka.
    I assisted a injured man who was hacked with with a bushknife, after stablising him.
    We went to the emergency department at Goroka Gen. Hospital.I went in with the patient.
    The patient injury involed one of his flexor tendon (forearm) cut and a crack of the ulna on exploration.
    I was surprise to find basic suturing items like gauze, , iodine, suturing needles & materials unavailable in such bigger health setting.
    But this young health worker managed to get the job done perfectly.He used the the size 18′ syringe needle, he sutured the cut without a gauze because it was nil stock and without any aid of an assistant, for such injury (I later assisted him).
    I asked if he was on duty but he said no. I later found out that he had worked late and decided to sleep in the bus.When the driver was asked to get the on call he stepped in.
    That shows the desire health workers have in serving the patient. Even with out complete working tools.
    Indeed the government can not provide better pay or housing but the least it can do have all basic woking items in place for us to use.
    So that we may enjoy our job and work without any occupational risk
    By the way I met a relative of this guy, a week after and he reported that the patient was doing well.
    Thankfully, no wound breakdown.

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