Aid criteria to become less region-focused
Sorry, but it’s not my problem!

TB threat: Torres clinics should remain open


AUSTRALIA is at risk of a mutated, virtually untreatable and extra-deadly strain of tuberculosis if it axes tuberculosis clinics in the Torres Strait.

Justin Waring, the Gillard government's chief adviser on the infectious lung disease, said proposed cuts to treatment services in the Torres Strait could expose the mainland population to a much more serious form of TB.

The clinics on the islands of Saibai and Boigu treat villagers from PNG's Western Province, who make the trip by dinghy to meet doctors every fortnight.

The villagers are allowed to enter the islands for traditional purposes, which do not theoretically include the treatments, understood to cost about $45,000 a patient.

Now the Queensland and federal governments are arguing over the money, with the state arguing it is Canberra's responsibility to provide healthcare to PNG nationals.

The federal government says the Torres Strait is clearly under Queensland's jurisdiction and it is trying to build PNG's medical capacity through AusAID.

Dr Waring applauded the drive for self-sufficiency but warned it could take decades, by which time the disease could mutate into the drug-resistant XDR-TB strain, which is resistant to most treatments.

"You're almost returning to 100 years ago when there were no drugs for TB and people were sent off to the mountains to live in sanatoriums," he said.

Coalition regional health spokesman, Dr Andrew Laming, said the consequences could be "disastrous".

"Ceasing these services can lead to multi-drug-resistant TB and the costs to Australia will be far in excess of the resources required to continue frontline treatment," he said.

Torres Strait Regional Authority chairman Toshi Kris warned closing the clinics would only drive sick PNG nationals on to mainland Australia in search of treatment.

Source: The Australian


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Peter Kranz

Sarah Elks of The Australian is running hot with this story with another piece today based on leaked correspondence. I wonder who's doing the leaking? Also is Andrew Laming, opposition health spokesman, perhaps reading PNG Attitude?

Maybe Qld state pollies should be put on the mailing list too.


QUEENSLAND Premier Anna Bligh's appeal for an extra $15 million to continue treating sick Papua New Guineans was rejected by the Gillard government, despite her insistence it was a federal responsibility to provide the humanitarian support.

Leaked correspondence between Ms Bligh and Julia Gillard's office about the shutdown of tuberculosis clinics in the Torres Strait reveal the enormous cost for Queensland of treating PNG nationals.

In Ms Bligh's January letter, she says Queensland spends nearly $19m each year treating people from PNG, of which almost $4m was funded by the federal government...

Acting prime minister Wayne Swan said both governments shared a "joint interest" in preventing the outbreak of infectious disease in north Queensland. However, he refused to increase the level of funding...

The federal opposition's spokesman on regional health services, Andrew Laming, said closing the clinics was a public health mistake.

Peter Kranz

Maybe this is one reason why the AusAID initiative to improve health services in Western and provide better local support to TB patients has failed.

From todays Post Courier -


K7m Global funds misused

UP to K7 million of special donor funds for the health sector is unaccounted for while a senior medical doctor in the National Department of Health (NDoH) has just built a brand new house worth more than his annual salary package.

The doctor holds a senior position in NDoH. It is alleged that some of the donor funds could have been used to built the house. The National Department of Health receives millions of kina in quarterly tranches from Global Fund and spends it on projects identified by the PNG Country Co-ordinating and Monitoring (CCM) team headed by former first lady, Lady Roslyn Morauta.

The abuse of the funds is so bad that the NDoH had to “resign” last month from managing the funds released for intervention projects to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in Papua New Guinea.

Phil Fitzpatrick

We know there is no facility in Western Province to treat TB patients so those 60 people will now probably die a lot sooner than expected - how callous a government decision (based on money) is that?


There is a follow-up article in today's Australian.

This is truly shameful. Australia is turning away people legally entitled to help under the terms of the Torres Strait Treaty. This can only make matters worse for PNG nationals with TB.

Closing the TB clinics is stupid. Australia is only currently treating 60 PNG nationals for TB at Saibai and Boigu clinics. This hardly counts as health services being "swamped".

I reckon the money saved by cutting AusAID consultants in PNG would more than pay for these clinics to be kept open, and indeed expanded.

I also note that the map used in the Australian shows the border between the two countries in the wrong place. Sabai and Boigu are both part of Australian territory (Qld to be exact) and the border lies less than 4 km from PNG.


AusAID has been working with and funding PNG to improve health infrastructure, including TB treatment in the Western Province. But progress has been slow and success limited.

A leaked letter from Queensland Health director-general Michael Reid, obtained by The Australian, reveals Australian authorities have agreed the so-called package of measures, aimed at helping PNG improve its health infrastructure, has "failed"...

The TB clinics will be closed by the end of the month.

Currently, 60 PNG nationals receive the Australia-funded treatment. When the clinics close, responsibility for their treatment will be handed to PNG authorities. The situation became untenable when Queensland Health realised it could not afford to continue providing the services using existing federal funding.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)