Australia leaves refugees to madness & death
That’s all you get, says Buin

I am not to be silent

Nursing staff
Nursing staff and children in Oro Province, c 1970s


BRISBANE – Mine is a truly sorrowful and even frightening story and I am motivated to write it after reading a PNG Post-Courier article by Nathan Kuman.

I follow Rostrum’s motto “not to be silent when I ought to speak”.

Four weeks ago I spent three nights at Kokoda, staying at a guest facility run by the family of Henry Amuli MP, which is located nearby the Kokoda Hospital.

This is the home district of Governor Gary Juffa, who is currently tasked as deputy chair of a major official inquiry into aspects of great consequence to health of all Papua New Guinean citizens and visitors.

A thoroughgoing investigation into the capabilities and competencies and, dare I say it, corruptions in the national health department.

While in the district I was given a free lift from Kokoda to Waseta there by a retired medical professional.

And I spoke with several people who were waiting for government health officers to pay invoices for services provided to the government.

Over very many years I have been acquainted with persons in the Oro Province. Many who have since died (through varied causes. I mention this only because each hardly (or never) made it to middle age.

But the monumental tragedy of deaths in childbirth is appalling:

It is appalling that Henry Amuli MP should need to ask the health minister to notice and address the issue.

It is appalling that for so many people tis issue fails to be addressed (and shame on men who avoid discussing the matter).

It is appalling that, for all the resources, staff and procedural busy-ness, innocent lives fall into a deadly chasm and are consumed a lack of awareness and ability.

This is in the districts of earlier professional medical adventurers, physicians and surgeons like Cecil Gill (1920s), Blanche Biggs (1948-1974), Clive Auricht (1961-1963), Anthony Radford (1966-1967), Maurice Dowell (1965-1983?), and so very many dedicated nurses, not least Sr Helen Roberts at Wanigela-Sarad, Sr Pat Durdin at Kaiva and the Anglican martyrs Sr May Hayman and Sr Margery Brenchley.

People who worked so assiduously and gave their lives, sometimes literally, to create a profoundly good health service for the people of Oro.

These days such things happen in this province as a hospital having a large solar panel removed in the ‘interests’ of a nearby commercial enterprise.

This is in the battleground lands of Kokoda, now commercialised by trekker enterprise. Should ill befall any trekker, unknown outcomes could transpire and hopes of insurances expire.

What a job this is for health minister Jelta Wong. I hope for the sake of these people and their small vulnerable infants, that he does more than tick and flick.

Kokoda and its surrounds is a segment, just a fraction, of a serious health crisis that has enveloped Papua New Guinea.

What price commitment?


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Chris Overland

Lindsay's article should be a source of both sadness and shame to PNG's health administrators. It details yet another dismal indication of their many failures.

That said, he has also mentioned a number of Australian doctors who served with distinction in PNG, some of whom I have known.

Long ago, a few years after I first returned from PNG to Adelaide, I secured a senior administrative role in the Public Health Department. It rapidly became apparent to me that most of the doctors working in the field had served in PNG. I will mention just four of them.

Dr Tony Radford AO, MBE, now Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University, spent 10 years in PNG before having a very distinguished career as, firstly, a clinician of considerable knowledge and skill and subsequently as an academic passing on those skills to junior doctors.

Dr Milton Lewis worked for several years in PNG as a clinician before returning to Australia and having a very successful career in occupational medicine, retiring as Director of that discipline within the SA Department of Health.

Dr Clive Auricht OAM, gave great service for a number of years in Oro Province before returning to Australia. He served for many years as the sole GP in the town of Cowell, located on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. He retired to my own home town and I have had the privilege of reading his unpublished memoire about his time in PNG.

Dr Ken Clezy AO, MBE was a distinguished General Surgeon, who served in PNG for many years. I first met him at Kapuna Hospital in Gulf Province, where he offered priceless support to the redoubtable Drs Peter and Lynn Calvert. Many Papua New Guineans are alive today who were saved by the skilled hands of Dr Clezy.

I mention these four men only to demonstrate that PNG often had the services of people who were not only motivated largely by altruism but combined that impulse with rare levels of knowledge and skill.

It is tragic therefore that their successors appear to have failed to live up to the standards they set.

And remembering the University of Adelaide's late Prof Tim Murrell, who as a young doctor posted to Kundiawa in the early 1960s did so much of the initial work to identify the causes of 'pikbel', a gangrenous and lethal condition of the gut especially prevalent after major singsing festivals where undercooked pork was consumed - KJ

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