PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Dec. 12) - Medicine is close to the heart for everybody. If you get sick, you want something to finish off the ailment and get you back to normal.

In the old days, Papua New Guineans would rely on traditional medicine practitioners in the village and leaves and other natural ingredients would be conjured up and applied to the patient. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

Now we have a worldwide range of medicine, manufactured with all kinds of scientific compounds and brought to us in fancy wrapping. Again, sometimes the medicinal goodies defeat the illness, other times not.

The only difference is that many Papua New Guineans have forsaken the village remedies and come to rely entirely on the imported ones. And, sad to say, those imported medicines or drugs are not getting to the people who need them the most, those in the rural villages. They are far from the urban pharmacies and private doctors who play host to the city and townsfolk.

Every Papua New Guinean knows that in recent years, their family members back in the village have regularly encountered medicine shortages.

Whether they go to the nearest aid post, health center or urban hospital, they are being told by nurses, "sori, nogat marasin, yu go long famasi." (Sorry, we have no medicine, you should go to the pharmacy.)

The previous Health Minister, Sir Peter Barter, did his best to sort out the government medical supplies system but was repeatedly hamstrung in his efforts.

A new Minister, Sasa Zibe, is upset at what he’s found and is pushing for better. The system of area medical stores appears to be disorganized and possibly affected by corruption. There have been strong allegations against the system of tendering and ordering supplies.

Now we have evidence of a major medicines contract being paid out in full, with some of those medical kits still sitting in a Port Moresby warehouse.

Health Secretary Clement Malau says he has started an investigation into various allegations.

When will this probe finish? How quickly will its recommendations be implemented? The people of Papua New Guinea deserve far better than they have been getting. Greed and inefficiency, if they are the barriers to medicine reaching the rural people, must be tackled and swept away.

Minister and Secretary for Health, the people want you to succeed, not to become sidetracked or stymied as has happened in the past.

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