PNG HOSPITAL ACCUSED OF MISTREATING PATIENTS

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Port Moresby hospital said to abuse elderly rights

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec.30, 2008) – Public hospital chief executive officers will be held accountable if their officers continue to mistreat disabled persons, old people or others who are exempted from paying fees to seek medical attention.

Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Sasa Zibe issued the warning yesterday when he was contacted to comment on allegations by former executive officer with the national mental health services Paulus Kororo about hospital staff failing to uphold the general medical ethics at workplaces.

Mr. Kororo, who retired from the department in 1990, claimed discrimination against people living with disability, old people and others exempted from paying medical fees at the public hospitals in the country was rife.

He said this after witnessing at the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) accident and emergency ward on several occasions while accompanying his grandchildren for medication.

Attempts to contact the CEO of the PMGH, Dr Alphonse Tay were unsuccessful yesterday.

However, Mr. Zibe said there was a Hospital Act and all the staff working in the public hospitals, health centres and clinics should be aware of the Act as well as their medical ethics, and what had been happening over time was clearly ignorance.

Kororo said a nursing officer approached him after he was suggesting to one old man in his late 60s not to pay medical fees but had to back off when she realised who she was talking to.

"Although I had to pay for my disabled grandson’s medical fees, I was surprised when I stood watching old people coming into the emergency for medical care who were told to pay for the services," Kororo said.

Acting CEO of the Popondetta General Hospital Dr Gunzee Gawin said the priority was to treat the patients and the money came later and it was very wrong and unethical when many hospitals in the country were not applying the Act.

Dr Gawin said this was ethically wrong, and although other public hospitals might be doing this because of various reasons only known to them, again, this was totally against the Hospital Act.

Zibe, while sharing the sentiments with those families who have met this dilemma at public hospitals, promised notices would be sent to hospital CEOs to monitor hospital staff in applying the Act.HE said health workers have the duty to protect and provide for the sick as stipulated under the amendments of hospitals and dental fees by the National Executive Council (NEC), which addresses the central issue of exemption status in regard to the payments of medical fees and relevant rates.

"People with disabilities, the older people, tuberculoses, leprosy, STD, HIV/AIDS, cancer and childhood immunisation are exempted from paying any fees and hospital clerks must be made aware of this because the department will come down hard on these allegations," Zibe said.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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