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Funds better spent on deteriorating hospitals

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 20, 2010) - The opposition has slammed the Government’s plans for a K500 million upgrade of Jackson Airport to international standards amid deteriorating hospital conditions and dwindling, supplies and life-saving equipment.

Re-appointed Transport, Civil Aviation and Works Minister Don Polye recently announced his intention to fund upgrading of Jackson Airport at a cost of PGK500 million [US$187 million].

Deputy Opposition leader and Lae MP Bart Philemon said that once again, the Somare Government funding priorities show that it sees the lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans as expendable.

"It took 10 years to find less than PGK10 million [US$3.7 million] to purchase a cobalt machine for the cancer ward in Lae following the deaths of many Papua New Guineans who could not go overseas for such treatment," Mr. Philemon said, referring to Angau Base Hospital’s lack of this equipment for decades.

"And look at the deteriorating conditions of the nation’s major hospital – Port Moresby General Hospital.

"Just the other day, a biopsy that could not be performed on the scheduled time for a patient from Lae was delayed for three days due to lack of sterilizing equipment. Following the biopsy operation, the lift from Ward Three was not working so we could not take him to Ward Eight.

Philemon said the patient had to stay on Ward Three until he regained consciousness and then weak and groggy he was assisted several flights of steps to Ward Eight.

He recalled another experience in Lae last year, when another friend, who had his legs broken, had to pay PGK108 [US$40 million] for morphine in a pharmacy to ease his agony because this basic medical drug was depleted.

"It has cost me more than PGK100 to buy this basic drug. What about the majority of the rural people? Can they afford PGK100 to buy morphine in a pharmacy?

Philemon said the Government no doubt had to juggle a lot of conflicting, demanding and costly priorities.

"But what I am dismayed and aggrieved about is that this Government seems focused on costly luxuries that serve a few elites and themselves while the people – the citizens – that elected them into office are struggling or dying from lack of basic health services," he said.

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