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By Jack Metta

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 25, 2002 – The National)---Health Minister Tommy Tomscoll is to seek an explanation from the Australian aid agency, AusAID, about the shortage of medical drugs in the country.

He said the PNG government did not budget for the cost of medical supplies because AusAID had made a commitment of K 30 million (US$ 8,292,000) for that purpose.

"We have not budgeted for the supply of drugs to public hospitals this year on the understanding that AusAID will take care of this function," Mr. Tomscoll said.

He said he did not know why this undertaking had not been honored, leading to widespread drug shortages in public hospitals throughout the country.

The Australian High Commission and AusAID officials will be asked to comment on Mr. Tomscoll's statement.

"There is some serious explanation to be made and I will be demanding such from the appropriate people in Port Moresby," he said yesterday.

"But from the outset, we have to accept responsibility for the lives that are lost because of the lack of drugs.

"We are dealing with people's lives and people are dying because of the current situation," he said.

He said he hopes to make a statement as soon as he has an audience with the AusAID people.

AusAID officials charged with the task of procuring and supplying drugs under the current arrangement are attached to the National Health Department in Port Moresby.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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