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Tuberculosis patients no longer eligible for treatment

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 30, 2011) – A former PNG health minister has decribed the Australian Government's decision to stop funding healthcare for PNG nationals attending clinics in the Torres Strait as inhumane.

The closeness of health clinics in Queensland's Torres Strait islands to PNG means many rely on them for treatment for conditions such as tuberculosis.

But the Australian Government says from the July 1 it will not provide funds for that care and will instead fund health services in PNG.

The decision has been criticised by Opposition MP's in Australia, and former long serving Health Minister in Papua New Guinea, Sir Peter Barter, says people will not stop travelling to Australian clinics.

"The closure to me is just inhumane," he said. "The clinics will continue under state funding, and health workers there have stated they will not stop treating anyone from PNG who needs care."

Earlier in June, an Australian MP said Queensland Health workers in the Torres Strait had told him they would continue treating PNG nationals for tuberculosis despite the government's decision.

Federal MP Warren Entsch said the health workers had told him PNG patients with tuberculosis were still turning up daily for treatment.

"They will not turn away people that are in need or people that are dying - they will not do it and they've made that very, very clear to me," he said.

"They have to be there anyway - there are Torres Strait Islanders there that require assistance."

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