Date set for judicial review of Peter O’Neill arrest warrant
The bus that carried so many new kiaps

Waiting patiently in line (while others neglect their duties)

Father & sick child, DaruPAEOPE OVASURU

IT’S a Saturday and I am at the hospital with my two-year-old son, Bobby.

We’ve been here for an hour now. Security told us to wait until the counter opened so we could get a number to see the nurse.

Around us, mothers and their sick children wait patiently. Some kids are so weak and their body temperatures so high that their mums sponge them as they cry. It’s a sight every mother knows too well.

After two hours of waiting, things have not progressed because the counter clerk and the nurse have not arrived and it’s already 4 pm. Some mothers have given up and gone home, while others are resilient, hoping a nurse will eventually turn up.

As I sit looking at these people around me, my attention is caught by an elderly woman with a little girl about six or seven. They are sitting on the form next to us. The child breathes heavily as her grandmother continuously sponges her with cold water. The child is so weak, she cannot even sit up.

I look at my watch and it’s 5:30 pm, so I decide to go home and come back the next day.

On Sunday, I wake up very early to take Bobby back to hospital. As we arrive at 6:40 am, there’s already a queue. Then a woman taps me on the shoulder. I look at her and remember her from yesterday.

We greet each and she tells me of the little girl and her grandmother. The little girl died that night in the hospital. I couldn’t believe the news. My new friend tells me she was the last one to leave the hospital and saw what happened.

She said the little girl had grown weaker as they waited for the nurse to arrive. But no nurse turned up and by the time the grandmother consulted with a doctor it was too late.

My thoughts took me to the loving grandmother tenderly sponging her granddaughter while waiting so patiently for help. It broke my heart and it angered me that, although they were already in the hospital, the girl had to die.

I think she could have been alive today had the nurse turned up for her shift.

Many people die due to ignorance of the people who are trained and put in charge of delivering services.

This story is not an isolated one and it didn’t happen in a remote part of PNG, it happened in the capital city, Port Moresby.

The negligence of the nurse and the staff led to the loss of a life so young.

It’s too common an event in this country, public servants always making people wait for them. And it’s not only in hospitals, it’s everywhere.

In the schools teachers don’t turn up to teach; in government departments officers don’t turn up for duty. 

Many people complain about it, yet nothing is done because we have come to accept this as a way of life.

I’m writing this for the little girl I saw lying on her grandmother’s lap fighting for her life silently.

Rest well little one!


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Michael Dom

Did a bit of rechecking and my tambu actually had an acute liver failure and not renal/kidney failure. It's uncommon and some causes are unexplainable.

According to one clinic "Acute liver failure, also known as fulminant hepatic failure, can cause serious complications, including excessive bleeding and increasing pressure in the brain. It's a medical emergency that requires hospitalization."

'Acute' means sudden onset and does not necessarily mean severe.

'Fulminant' means occurring suddenly, rapidly, and with great severity or intensity. In other words you could die.

My tambu's situation was acute and severe - he could have died.

The same clinic website also states that "Acute liver failure can develop quickly in an otherwise healthy person, and it is life-threatening. If you or someone you know suddenly develops a yellowing of the eyes or skin; tenderness in the upper abdomen; or any unusual changes in mental state, personality or behavior, seek medical attention right away."

So how do we triage that?

The NSW Health Department regulations stipulates triage in five categories here, prescribing how life threatening the condition is.

"Patients are triaged on the basis of the speed with which they need medical attention. The Triage Nurse allocates a triage category to a patient based on the statement:

"This patient should wait for medical assessment and treatment no longer than..."

1. Needing treatment within 2 minutes - immediately life threatening
2. Needing treatment within 10 minutes - imminently life threatening
3. Needing treatment within 30 minutes - potentially life threatening
4. Needing treatment within 1 hour - potentially serious condition
5. Needing treatment within 2 hours - less urgent condition

So according to the above description from NSW Health my tambu was at level 3 and should have received medical attention in less than 30 minutes.

I assume the statement is written down on their medical card or board or what have you, and that the concerned friends or family are duly informed.

We received no such clarification at POMGH Emergency ward.

We remained ignorant and helpless - apparently as the the emergency medical professionals at POMGH, and our health department would have us remain.

My in-law was later diagnosed as having non-infectious meningitis, i.e. swelling of the brain. Hence, the stiffness and altered consciousness.

We had waited for 36 hours while my tambu's saline IV ran out.

We had brought him over from POM Private Hospital, where his condition had been stabilized and observed, and with the saline drip attached.

Saline solution is a sterile solution of sodium chloride salt at 0.9% concentration - the level in tears, blood and other body fluids (courtesy of

It probably costs too much money to replace sterile saline solutions so I recommend that the POMGH Emergency ward start buying coconuts because running out of saline IV is no good excuse.

In fact, everyone should bring their own coconuts whenever they or their family and friends are likely to need saline IV at hospital.

Fortunately my tambu is a young man and was able to respond to treatment. He survived.

Vikki John

But there were medical doctors behind closed doors from what I gather!!!

Lindsay Bond

Vikki's words seem to point toward doctors doing triage. For those waiting, the problem was that, of any category of person in attendance, there was no triage.

Vikki John

Duty of care and negligence should be addressed.

The hospital has a duty of care and it seems they were negligent in this sad event by not attending to the sick little girl waiting with her grandmother for hours in the waiting room.

Medical intervention was needed not by a counter clerk or a nurse but a qualified medical doctor at the Gerehu St John's hospital.

Therefore, "the negligence of the nurse and the staff led to the loss of a life so young" is incorrect. Her sad death is due to the lack of professional medical care from a qualified health professional who has earned a degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).

I agree with comment from Philip G. Kaupa, "Sue the hospital for the youngs sake. Its deliberate professional ignorance".

Lindsay Bond

Can the point by Philip G Kaupa be drawn to the attention of a legal person, to help in understanding on 'non-medical negligence of an employee'?

It is likely the Minister for Health will have had that advice, but what of bureaucratic intermediaries and at each shift, the duty nurse?

Paul Waugla Wii

The public service machinery seems to be bogged down somewhere.
From the bureaucrats down to the security guard or door watchman, some workers simply neglect their duties.

Teachers and nurses not attending to work is a very serious offence indeed.

Baka B Bina

Whilst I dont want to promote Digicel I am compelled to.
Digicel runs this marvelous insurance program where you pay 58 toea or less each day to be insurance covered for death and another 58 toea for medical bill after the first day of up of K 96 per day on their BIMA program.

This is available to all digicel users who can be registered to the program, everyone, working person or unemployed person, so long as you have a digicel phone.

What is one kina twenty toea per day when we spend more than 5 kina per day on flex cards. Not only that most PNGn's spend more than 2 kina per day on beetle nut and smoke.

Under the Bima insurance and a digicel owner can hook up easily dialing *164# this can give a sick person or parent the assurance to seek a private doctor. We all know how dreadful it is at the public hospitals and health centers and clinics but when we are given this opportunity with the likes of Digicel, we complain it is too expensive that they keep on deducting and we forget that we splurge more that K 2 every day on unnecessary up keeps on the likes of buai nuts and smoke.

At least with Digicel's Bima, there is a prospect of a benefit when it is crucial. You wont get that with splurging on buai and smoke.

I do not want to belittle the tragedy at the Gerehu Clinic, nor do I want to enrich the Digicel's coffers however the knowledge that I could for up to 58 toea per day, have the opportunity not to sit waiting for long in a dreadful place like a public clinic can be the best remedy.

Philip G Kaupa

Sue the hospital for the youngs sake. Its deliberate professional ignorance.

John K Kamasua

We feel for the little girl....she could have been saved if she as attended to earlier. Such a tale is not uncommon in many parts of the country.

If you are in the health profession, such a story might help you to see that just reaching out and attending to one child, or person is very important.

Yet there are many committed health workers in the country chipping away at the hours and saving lives...

Just like many other sectors, the health sector really need big improvements and support.

Joe Herman

This is a heartbreaking story. If this does not touch the heart of any politician, then they never had any heart in the first place.

Michael Dom

"I am the one in ten / A number on a list / I am the one in ten / Even though I don't exist / Nobody knows me / But I'm always there / A statistic, a reminder / Of a world that doesn't care"

- UB-40, Present Arms 1981

Martinez Wasuak

This is a very touching article. Yes such case is happening as we speak. When someone put it up, we discuss about it, good recommendations made. It needs proper implementation. So sad, PNG seriously needs to step up. This is a very young life lost.

Paeope Ovasuru

It's sad but true...this happened at the Gerehu St John's hospital. I've been going there for some time now and it's always the nurses or if they turn up they are angry because there's a long line of people to serve...just makes you wonder why he/she even decided to take up the profession.

Thanks Vikki for the contact details..I'll get in touch with the health authorities, something needs to be done.

Terry Shelley

We should all remember that we did have the biggest, best and most expensive Pacific Games ever with millions squandered on fireworks etc.

Could the Sports Minister tell us how grassroots people have benefited from the K2.4 billion squandered in Port Moresby on his watch.

Michael Dom

I waited for 36 hours at POMGH Emergency for my tambu to get a replacement IV saline and treatment for complete renal failure.

We arrived at around 7PM.

My tambu was initially treated at POM Private Hospital across the road for 24 hours. He had been unconscious, then semi-comatose for most of that time.

Although my tambu was seated in a wheel chair I had to stand holding him upright for hours on end. There was no space for him to lie down.

There was one nurse at Emergency all night, but we saw him only two or three times actually in the room taking care of people.

When we finally got into Emergency ward there were at least five 'young doctors' in the enclosed office space.

What were they doing in all that time?

Thanks Vikki.

I will try the email address and forward this article link.

Vikki John

Have you contacted National Department of Health in Port Moresby about this very sad story?
Their contact details are:

For general enquiries:
Phone: (+675) 301 3601/3634
Fax: (+675) 325 1825

Also, the Minister for Health, Hon. Michael Malabag, MP can be contacted by phone on 3277341 at Waigani.

If this happened at the Port Moresby general hospital, have they been told that there was no nurse or counter clerk on Saturday afternoon?

Michael Dom

In PNG, if you die by being killed either during tribal fighting, by accident or by murder then there is a compensation payment either prescribed by court order or by out-of court settlement.

If you die from assumed sanguma practice then the community tortures and murders the alleged sanguma and gets the family to pay your compensation. The court has nothing to do with any of this.

If you are raped then compensation payments are settled out-of-court.

If you are clearly ill from human frailty and the medical system is unable to provide services to you, and as a result you die, then that is just too bad.

In order to benefit from the current system citizens are advised to be killed by fighting or by accident, pick someone to accuse of sorcery when feeling ill, not be concerned about rape because they will be paid, but never get seriously ill because there is no profit in it.

Phil Fitzpatrick

The politicians and senior public servants are responsible for situations like this. They have the money and the resources but they prefer to steal them and watch people die. They have blood on their hands.

Robin Lillicrapp

A sad commentary, Paeope.

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