29 Oct 2013

State of emergency to quickly repair run-down PNG hospital

6:33 pm on 29 October 2013

The Papua New Guinea government has declared a state of emergency aimed at improving the physical state of Lae's run-down Angau hospital.

The state of emergency allows the government to immediately access funding in a trust account that had been intended for a rebuilding of the hospital.

Our correspondent in Lae, Oseah Philemon, says several million kina of that fund will now be used to undertake emergency repairs.

OSEAH PHILEMON: Because it is a state of emergency, the government has completely taken over the hospital and they've now awarded the contract to a major construction company in Lae - Hornibrook NGI. And they're going to get in there and work on the real parts that need to be renovated.

DON WISEMAN: Tell us how bad things are at this hospital.

OP: It is absolutely run-down. I am surprised that it continues to operate. It is completely run-down. The physical state of the hospital is a real, real eyesore. It cannot be called a hospital anymore. It's completely run-down Wards are run-down. They've just renovated the Accident and Emergency section, so that's probably the only part of the hospital that looks good. The rest of the hospital is in a terrible state. The operating theatres, most of them are not operating. The beds are very old. Very, very old mattresses. They've run out of sheets. The hospital is also running short of drugs. It's terrible. And it's been like this for a long time. It's very demoralising for the staff, too. They're in very short numbers. There's a real shortage of nurses and doctors. So the hospital is in a very, very terrible state.

DON WISEMAN: Who is to blame here for it being so run-down? Is it the provincial administration or the national government?

OP: Under the decentralisation of powers system of the government which was set up soon after independence, most of the functions of the hospitals have been transferred to provincial governments, but provincial governments say the actual control of the hospital is by the Department of Health, which is national government. So you have a system where part of the management and administration is supposed ot be run by the provincial government and then the others are supposed to be run by the national government. Funding has been a very, very serious problem all along. The money that they get through the national budget is just barely enough to pay for salaries and drugs, otherwise not enough to pay for new equipment, not enough to do any maintenance. So that's where the problem lies. And it's a combination of things. And both national and provincial governments are responsible for this throughout the years since independence. And this is not just the Angau hospital, this is all hospitals in Port Moresby. The government recently allocated 50 million kina to Port Moresby General Hospital to get it into shape and Port Moresby General Hospital, I understand, is starting to look much better now than it used to.