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Closure imminent if government doesn’t respond

By Franco Nebas PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 4, 2009) – In Papua New Guinea, lack of funding could see the Angau Memorial Hospital cholera treatment centre close down the operation, disease ground controller Dr. Victor Golpak warned on Wednesday.

Dr Golpak said that the treatment centre might close today if funds were not released quickly to maintain the operation.

He warned that the closure of the centre would pose a major threat to Lae City and Morobe as a whole with the current situation on the cholera outbreak.

"We must be careful because the epidemic is still active or we might see more body bags piling up at the hospital," he warned.

He said casual workers engaged to assist with the operation were not being paid after NGO group, Doctors without Borders, (Medicins Sans Frontier) pulled out early last month.

He said that the workers were hired by MSF until they pulled out, leaving them under the control of the Angau Hospital.

However, with the delay of funds from the national government, the unpaid workers were forced to retire from working at the centre.

"We have problem with the facilities as well as manpower resources, making it difficult for the skeleton staff at the treatment centre," he said.

Dr Golpak said that he had received a letter from the hospital executive officer Dr. Polapoi Chalau advising him that the centre would close down.

Dr Chalau said in the letter that "there was a possibility that the centre will cease operation by end of this week (Friday) if still there is no funding."

A worried Dr. Golpak said that with the situation now Lae was facing a serious threat which would see the death toll rise.

"It will be a major disaster in the province if the centre is closed," he warned.

Meanwhile, the Government has finally released the first 3 million kira [US$1.1 million] from the 11 million kira [US$4.1 million] committed against the disease. However, Dr Golpak stressed that the 3 million kira was still not enough to cater for the current situation.

"The government should release all the money so that we could put the disease to rest in the affected provinces," he said.

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