When the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing

Exciting stuff...isn't it? The front-page news of a new state-of-the-art hospital to be built just outside Port Moresby. About time the real needs of the people of this country were addressed. And the Americans are going to be involved, especially the prestigious Stanford University!!

I have raised the issue of  "brain drain" previously in another blog where a growing number of elites of Papua New Guinea have been inflicted with lifestyles diseases and this major announcement for such a facility is music to our ears. What boggles my mind though is how the top health bureaucrat, Health Secretary Dr Clement Malau did not know about the hospital and it is not even included in the 5/10 Year health plan.

Don't get me wrong - I love the idea but let not the pollies run away with the idea while the bureaucrats and technocrats are trying to come to grips with the enormity of such a project. Which brings me to the letter below that ran in the Post-Courier yesterday and raised some pertinent questions under the heading - IS PNG ABLE TO STAFF AND RUN STATE-OF-THE-ART HOSPITAL:-

"Allow me to comment on the state of the art hospital. Hold your horses PNG - don't be fooled by the "spin doctors". A state of the art hospital  needs state of the art patients for starters.

I have heard these superlative adjectives before from professors of medicine in the 1970's and 1980's but am unconvinced that they will change the health statistics. Building a hospital is the easy part; the hardest part is equipping and staffing it 24 hours a day, 366-days a year; year in year out, without fail.

A hospital of any size, let alone that of 300 bed one, runs on nursing and ancillary powers, not on doctor's power. Does PNG have the number of nurses and ancillary staff to run a state of the art hospital? Ok, they can be flown in from offshore. I am sure it can be done.

But we must not delude ourselves that doctors can be trained to do coronary artery  bypass surgery in three months or a radio-oncology for a similar length of time. And the beds in this hospital are not going to be free. K500 per day would be a minimum, extra for meals, medications and doctor's visits.

A 90 percent bed occupancy rate per day per year might give it a chance to survive. It will not be a teaching hospital because a patient paying the privilege of K500 a day won't be too happy to let students poke and prod his chest, abdomen and stick the fingers up the whatever.

I know I am a relic from last century but I feel sad when I see patients being turned away because they could not afford the outpatient's fees or pharmacy charges at Port Moresby General Hospital.

A. Saweri
Port Moresby




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