AUSTRALIA TB CLINIC IN TORRES STRAIT TO CLOSE IN JUNE

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PNG patients to get AusAID funded treatment at home

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 11, 2012) – There is still no certainty about the future of tuberculosis (TB) clinics in the Torres Strait, off Australia's north, for patients from Papua New Guinea.

Doctors from Queensland Health and PNG have travelled to Saibai Island to deliver a joint clinic Thursday, with another scheduled in Boigu on Friday.

About 20 PNG patients are expected to be treated.

The Australian Government was due to wrap up the clinics in the middle of last year but has since extended them twice to help with the transition of patients to PNG health services.

AusAID is spending AU$8 million [US$8.2 million] over four years to improve TB treatment services in PNG.

The final Torres Strait clinic is now scheduled for June.

However, AusAID says PNG residents will not be denied essential treatment if they continue to travel to the Torres Strait Islands after the TB clinics end.

The director of AusAID's HIV and health program in PNG, Geoff Clark, says agencies will meet to discuss the future of TB services later this month.

He says the clinics could be extended if there is a need.

Mr. Clark says all 30 remaining TB patients should be handed back to PNG health authorities by the final clinic in June.

"There will always be, I believe, people who will probably access the clinic on Saibai Island for healthcare for reasons of their own... I think certainly what we can do is create the pull factors that would allow people to realize that they have a service of their own because it is costly for them to get to Saibai Island," he said.

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