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Speak out! Silence is killing our nation

| My Land, My Country

LAE - In 2020, we went to each of the 10 health centres in Lae City with forms on which the officers-in-charge stated what medicines were in short supply and for how long the problem had existed.

Each form was signed by the manager.

A few months later, we travelled into the Highlands and did the same with at least 10 other clinics and hospitals in Eastern Highlands, Simbu, Western Highlands and Enga.

It was the only way we could get credible data on the problem of medicine shortages with the consent of frontline health workers.

Not many wanted to be interviewed. Those who did were later, very quietly, issued warning letters and told to shut the hell up or ship out.

In Kundiawa and Goroka, the acting CEOs said divisional heads and their pharmacy teams should meet with us.

Our reporting revealed a health system that was struggling. In Kundiawa the situation was so bad that in some cases the pharmacy was issuing expired drugs to patients.

Shocked? Don’t be. We know  it’s happening in other hospitals. We also know people are too afraid to speak out.

What’s the point in raising this story? The problems continue because people within the system remain silent.

Unions who represent the workers are also mute on matters of public importance.

Apart from Dr Sam Yokopua and Dr Glen Mola, very few senior medicos have spoken out. I also note that Dr Gerega Nou is writing more on Facebook about the issues he faces.

But we need more testimony.

Unions are only visible when there is a complaint to government over awards and pay.

The problem is they get zero support from the public because they remain silent over things that affect the wider community.

It’s the same in the education sector.

At Tusbab Secondary School in Madang, an average class has over 50 students. The community calls out to the media to ‘expose the situation’.

Problem is nobody with firsthand knowledge is brave enough to speak out and fight for change. Not many are willing to travel the whole way and see that change happens.

People remain silent in public, complain in private and stay in the same quagmire of legacy problems, working until they can’t take it anymore.

Covid-19 has laid bare all the weaknesses in the health system. The things that we could have fixed and didn’t. 

Those who are corrupt and morally bankrupt bled the system like fat ugly leeches.

They continue to hide like cockroaches in the dark and feed off a very sick system.

When is it going to stop?

Only when those in the system speak out, have their words amplified by the media and shame those in charge into acting for the good of the people.

One flaw we have as a people is that we expect someone else to do the work for us. We wait for people to speak and act for us.

We need to grow up and grow out of this unfortunate habit. 

We cannot wait until all our children’s resources are plundered and squandered and it is too late.

We have to speak out. Now!


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Philip Fitzpatrick

It seems that the prime minister is preoccupied with loftier issues Scott - like changing the constitution to make PNG a Christian country.

Much more important that mere pandemics, breakdowns in law and order etc etc. etc.

Philip Kai Morre

Medical officers must tell us the truth when dealing with human health. The hospital is the place for both death and life but unwarranted death shouldn't be allowed.

Kundiawa hospital seems to have real problems but the CEO and top executives are hiding them.

Kundiawa Hospital frightens people because Covid-19 patients are treated and kept in hospital wards meant for general patients.

Public hospitals are established for common people and Covid-19 patients should be kept isolated from the hospital.

Nurses are complaining about safety equipment, shortage of oxygen cylinders and other essential items and equipment to address the pandemic.

Clinical assistance is not provided and nurses as front line workers are fearing for their own lives because the hospital is not providing essential safety medical equipment.

There is also misleading information on the causes of deaths not said to be caused by Covid. Several patients have been isolated as Covid cases without proper clinical diagnosis and interviews.

Patients could have died of extreme fear and depression. There is more to be done and we can pretend that everything is OK.

There is a conflict between clinical staff especially medical doctors and nurses and the management staff who control funds.

The administration component is not listening to the clinical component of the hospital and money is spend unwisely on non-medical equipment like vehicles, houses, computers and allowances.

Stephen Charteris

Thank you, Scott, people everywhere need to speak truth to power – urgently and consistently.

But of itself it is unlikely to solve the problem. They need to be empowered to be part of the solution.

At every level across the health system the answer is the same: “Sori tru, moni las.”

The World Bank report, 'Health Financing System Assessment, Papua New Guinea, 2017' on page 15 records that real total expenditure for health in 2014 was K86 per capita.

And in the following years that figure was reduced further by annual cuts to funding.

Meanwhile the population continues to expand. So how?

It is time for a critical assessment of the role communities can play in service delivery at the preventative service end of the chain.

Services like malaria testing and treatment, immunisation and antenatal monitoring represent the so-called fence at the top of the cliff.

Without them, hospitals and health centres are fighting a losing battle. Funding HSIP and sector strengthening is only a part of the solution.

The people who would benefit most from preventative services must play a part in funding them. That is a challenge.

It requires a multi sectoral approach, but we know that it can be done. Frontline services can be linked to economic empowerment where those services are most needed.

This represents a bottom-up approach to facilitate the delivery of limited government resources to community settings.

It involves socio-economic activities, banks, mobile money and grant aid to get it going. In short it involves a shift in mindset towards mobilising communities and empowering them to be part of the solution.

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