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Turned away from humanitarian visit

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 2, 2008) – A team of Taiwanese doctors that arrived in the country to donate medicine to drug-starved hospitals and aid posts and offer their services freely to the sick have been snubbed by PNG authorities.

The team of eight flew out of the country on Wednesday, disappointed that they could not attend to the sick. The medicine they were to donate is still at the Taiwanese Trade Mission.

The team consists of four doctors, two nurses, a pharmacist, and an assistant.

It is understood differences between a certain member of the PNG Medical Board and those responsible for bringing the Taiwanese team to PNG was behind this blunder.

A Taiwanese Trade Mission official contacted did not rule out the recent US$30 million scandal being behind the refusal to give the doctors certificate to offer their services to the sick in PNG.

Chairman of PNG Medical Board Dr Mathias Sapuri, when contacted, said their request was refused because their papers were not in order.

Dr Sapuri said there are criteria and processes in place to protect the interest of Papua New Guineans.

He said anybody who wants to practice in the country must apply to the Medical Board with letters of good standing, copies of qualification, and payment of application fees among other stringent process.

"There are criteria that every doctor who wants to work in Papua New Guinea must follow," Dr Sapuri said.

He said all goodwill teams whether it is heart, neurology, missionary and research groups follow the same criteria and processes when coming into the country to do medical work.

He said the Taiwan doctors did not pay the fees and did not follow the proper process to work in the country.

The team of Taiwan doctors was in the country with medical drugs and other equipment to work, especially in the Central province.

But Dr Sapuri said the doctors were not refused entry into the country and it had nothing to do with the Taiwan diplomatic scandal.

He said a lot of "con" people have come through as was the reason strict criteria are in place to protect Papua New Guinea interest.

"You cannot let any Tom, Dick and Harry into the country to practice."

Dr Sapuri said he had written to the team and advised them that they can visit health centres under supervision from the Central provincial health officers.

"They can donate medicines and equipment, but they cannot treat patients."

He said in Australia, it takes between eight and 12 months to apply to practice, and that was to protect Australian interest, and PNG was doing the same.

Dr Sapuri said that medicines and drugs brought into the country must also meet strict guidelines and have approval.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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