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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 7, 2002 – Post-Courier)---Papua New Guinea’s medical drugs supply crisis is over, Health Minister Tommy Tomscoll said yesterday.

Mr. Tomscoll told a news conference at the Health Department headquarters that the Australian government, through its international aid agency AusAID, last week released K 20 million (US$ 5,486,000) into the Health Department’s trust account to pay for medical supplies which have now arrived at various ports in PNG and also in transit.

This money is part of the K 32 million (US$ 8,777,600) one time aid package agreed to by the Australian and PNG governments to help buy medical supplies.

The Department of Health placed orders totaling K 16.6 million (US$ 4,553,380) in January for medical supplies, and will use the funds provided by AusAID to pay for these orders.

Mr. Tomscoll said the supplies ordered were now arriving in PNG, with another order worth K 7.1 million (US$ 1,947,530) ready to be placed next week.

Added to that will be an emergency order worth K 5 million (US$ 1,371,500), also to be placed this week, for critically needed items and drugs currently low at the hospitals and not included in the earlier orders.

He said the department had also consulted with hospitals to identify their most critical pharmaceutical requirements.

Mr. Tomscoll said that AusAID had also agreed, as an interim measure, to distribute essential drug kits to hospitals starting next week, earlier than originally planned. Supply and distribution of these kits is an on-going program provided by Australia.

He said each year, the government allocated K 25 million (US$ 6,857,500) for purchase of medical supplies.

But this year, it allocated only K 6 million (US$ 1,645,800) because the country was receiving this assistance from Australia, Mr Tomscoll said.

The release of the funds followed a meeting between Mr. Tomscoll and Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG Nick Warner to discuss the drug shortage crisis.

Mr. Tomscoll later chaired a round-table meeting between PNG and Australian officials to discuss funding, procurement, storage and distribution of the medical supplies in PNG.

"Australia has met its commitment to PNG’s medical supplies 2002 budget and I am deeply satisfied and also thankful. The drug shortage currently experienced shall soon be over and normalcy returned,’’ Mr. Tomscoll said.

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

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