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Kase’s admission of health system failure 10 years overdue

Pascoe-kase (post courier)
"I said to Pascoe Kase (pictured) 'You have to go to the clinics and talk to staff because the information you are giving me here is wrong'.   It turned into a tense exchange"

SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE - For the last five years, I have been repeating the same story: ‘We have a crisis in the health system.’

The rest of the country can see it. The people who are victims of the medicine shortages all over the country keep speaking out about it. Health workers have cried while being interviewed because they simply can’t save lives.

And we’re not talking about the expensive cancer treatment and operations families have to pay for. 

It’s the basics that are lacking. Antibiotics, malaria drugs, family planning drugs and consumables. The clinics don’t have them. Or even if they have them, the supplies are not enough for their catchment areas.

Personally, I have emailed the health secretary, Pascoe Kase, about the cancer unit in Lae, the ill-treatment of the late Dr John Niblet and the medicine shortages. I have called and sent text messages.

No reply.

I found that the only way  get the (former) government’s attention was to produce a series of live videos on Facebook berating the health minister and the ‘higher ups’ until the issue got discussed on the floor of parliament.

It took a change of government before health workers truly felt free to openly discuss the medicine shortages.  When the new PM, James Marape, travelled to Lae on his second visit, he came with health minister Elias Kapavore and secretary Kase.

We put the question of medicine shortages to him yet again. The health secretary was indeed quick to defend saying the medicine shortage was a “broad” assumption and that the problem was with the area medical stores.

He went on further to state that a lot of the blame lay with staff at the clinics.

I said: “You have to go to the clinics and talk to staff because the information you are giving me here is wrong.”  (I have the video).  It turned into a tense exchange which we later had to cut short.

After more than five years, secretary Kase is now ‘admitting’ that there are problems.  I could say better late than never.  But…no.  We wanted that admission earlier. We wanted an acknowledgment of the problem and it is almost 10 years overdue.

Senior doctors like Sam Yokopua, Ludwig Nanawar and Alex Peawi have all threatened to resign over the unresolved problems that continue to hurt their patients. 

Dr Sam Yokopua, has become something of a fundraiser, going out of his way to ask the public for support for medicines and consumables because the system is not supporting him.

Things need to change. Those in power need to realize that the people pay their salaries and the people want answers.


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Lindsay F Bond

Reported in The National today, health secretary Pascoe Kase offered that he "would check his files" to reduce a broad assumption timescale down to just one year.

However the point of the probing question was not of duration but of duress to the PNG national accounts caused by procurement in unusual circumstances.

That was unusual not only because tendering tension was flattened, but because would-be competitors were excluded.

What shortfall of governance capability was within the domain of the health department and was any other department asleep at the deal?


Lindsay F Bond

As reported of Prime Minister James Marape, by Rebecca Kuku in The National: "Health secretary Pascoe Kase...has been asked to vacate his office so an investigation can be done into the department to ascertain issues raised by the National Doctors Association."

If the Secretary is "to step aside for a week", will a taskforce of three investigators have sufficient time and resources to deliver effectively on matters that it might find? Will it even cover grounds of the National Doctors Association nine-point petition, as presented to the Prime Minister Marape on Aug 27?

Lindsay F Bond

Shame shame shame, indeed, as pointed to by Paul and William.

More info should be added, along the lines shown by Arthur. Who will tell?

What say people who know, those that Kase says "blame lay with staff at the clinics"? (What Kase for loyalty?)

Back in 2005, I was with a rural health clinic officer who was crying when telling of 'shortages'.

will self

Y'all should read the seven volume PAC Report on Health, particularly the sworn testimony of Secretary Kase. The Committee were solemnly told that "It is not the role of the Department of Health to provide medical services", so in that regard, the Secretary and his cronies have succeeded.

Arthur Williams


I liked the last sentence of Scott’s article. Luckily in my sojourn in PNG I didn’t spend too long living in the capital but the few years remain etched in my memory-bank.

I can still the recall the delightful appearance of the Waigani public servants and ministerial bag-carriers or ‘gofers’.

They looked quite sharp in their nice clothes complete with an air of officialdom that impressed the peasants who sought answers in shabby government offices or when these so called public servants accompanied their ministerial masters often helicoptered into the sweaty backwaters of the nation and thus avoiding nasty spray from a dinghy trip or inhaling the road dust and pothole bumps along neglected mud roads.

Having been a mostly rural inhabitant for my 32 years in PNG I had witnessed the terrible shortcoming of the Health Department at first hand:

The lovely dental building at Taskul with no electricity connection and the second-hand dental chair which would send you somersaulting backwards onto floor as it had a damaged rear support. Two officers stationed there to carry out 19th century extractions.

Daughter with cut finger arrived at 1610 so no treatment until next day.

Never ending lack of correct tablets so aspirin for malaria.

No antiseptic.

On and on it goes with the poor old aidposts having rundown buildings with even less medial necessities. Not even a water supply for some as collecting gutters broken or tank rusted and leaking.

Reports in PNG media now in my health file continue to grow and every year appear articles on the failure of the health ministers and their secretaries to solve the greatest problem of drug supply in their fiefdom.

011203 Medical drugs run out in NG Islands region:

INTRAVENOUS fluid, an essential medical drug, is reportedly running short in the New Guinea Islands Region. Saint Mary’s Vunapope Hospital paediatrician Dr Pomat told of one patient, who was very sick and needed IV treatment but hospital staff could not administer IV because they did not have the fluid in stock and the patient died. “It is a crisis situation. We are out of intravenous fluids,” Dr Pomat said.

020624 THE Port Moresby General Hospital is critically short of drugs There are no anaesthetic drugs and laboratory reagents.

020102 Goroka needs steriliser to fight typhoid epidemic

040114 Cancer, silent killer -UP to 10,000 Papua New Guineans die every year as a result of cancer

060721 Moresby hospital runs out of drugs

080608 2nd hand cancer machine that Lae hospital bought in 1979 eventually gave up ghost in 1999

081212 Tari hospital runs out of drugs

081231 In dire straits POMGH forced to accept donations to stay in business

090107 Babies miss out as drugs run out at Well Baby Clinic in POM

091016 Drug supply short at urban clinics

100223 Drug shortage in Lae clinics for newborn babies

100520 Last three months before ART drug supply ceases

119221 The acute shortage of basic medical drugs in rural aid posts in Madang and Karkar is now into its second month as the province’s medical store and supplier remains closed.

110722 Drugs shortage kills nine in Kandrian

111107 A$1.4 million given to pursue snake-bites study

110130 Papua New Guinea Health Report - The worst state of health in the Pacific region

120217 No immunisation vaccines for babies in Lae

120412 Nonga Base hospital short on oxygen supplies

120418 Wewak General Hospital is sending away patients seeking X-rays because its machine is not working.

131201 Internal DFAT documents identify Borneo Pacific as PNG’s largest provider of drugs from manufacturer North China Pharmaceutical Group, a known offender in China’s fake drugs crisis.

140109 Health is PNG Government's priority says Sir Puke Temu Minister for Public service

140115 Central Supply & Tenders Board backs NEC award to Borneo because it is not a manufacturer and did not require the ISO 9001 accreditation

140522 Burst pipes rats taint Modilon, Madang hospital food

140605 Medical kits here next week from Borneo Pharmaceutical Company in Indonesia

140722 Hospitals receive 300 second hand beds from John Hunter Hospital in OZ

150331 Shortage of BCG vaccine for babies at POM G Hospital is unacceptable

151106 PM seems to be deluded when he says 'no drug shortages in PNG hospitals'

160413 Critical drug shortage at POM G Hospital for six months

160415 ‘Hospitals not short of drugs’ says Secty. Pascoe Kase

160517 Laloki short of vital mental drug Olanzepine

160623 K50 Millions owed to suppliers and distributors of medical drugs acknowledged by health Minister Michael Malabag & his Secty. P Kase

160926 Hospitals lack cancer drugs

170103 Nogat marasin

170315 Lack Of Anti Venom In PNG A Concern at www.

170320 Shortage of pap smear tests because of lack of pathologists

170412 Half a million funding for drugs not enough for 6 months

170609 Drugs crisis being fixed says Secty. Kase

170808 K15,000 anti-venom fee will cause deaths says Dr Sam Yockopua

180222 Medicines running out as supplies stuck without distributor as Sir Puke dithers

180525 Sir Puke Tuma Health minister NOW admits medicine, needles, gauze, cotton often run out

181031 Oro Clinic serving 2000 people: No antibiotics, no painkillers or other basic supplies such as gauze, gloves and adhesives.

190319 Ways sought to improve supply of medicine says Sir Puka Temu

These mere headlines tell a sad tale of political neglect either from idiots, uncaring or corrupt elites who turn up to work in their nice clothes but often disdaining to answer the pleas of the masses crying out for a decent health system throughout the nation.

We are all aware how the top lot somehow afford trips to overseas hospitals or at the very at least access private medical care.

Sadly May 2019’s misnamed ‘change of government’ saw O’Neills recent supporters who had just publicly railed against him happily coalescing into almost the same political swamp dwellers.

Nothing new under the sun in politics: ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’

If you’re pregnant, very unwell, suffering from cancer, TB or with mental illness don’t hold your breath waiting to see improvements in your rural health facility.

Kenny Pawa Ambaisi

Many of our fellow citizens are dying from curable diseases. But the secretary and his cohorts had deaf ears and blind eyes.

When is the right time people will come out clear to be factual to serve the interest of the people. The good secretary reason is overdue.

I commend Senior Journalist Scot Waide for being very straight to address issues affecting our livelihood.

PNG need more of Scot Waide, Brian Bramer, Dr Lino and others. Keeping it up.

Paul Oates

Why is it now possible to deny the facts when they are clearly available?

The answer is that there is no one of any intention at the appropriate level prepared to do anything about what has been clearly evident and publically commented upon for years.

It appears that any possibility of getting some positive action over corruption and official malfeasance has now descended to the parameters of social media. This raises the element of proof and fake news. How pathetic is that?

Whatever happened to that most powerful of PNG emotions called 'shame'?

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