Pathology in PNG

Pathology laboratory opens in Port Moresby

Don't Chew betel nut

Don't Chew Betel Nut, Don't Smoke, Reduce Alcohol, Eat Healthy, Exercise Regularly

Fighting Cervice Cancer in PNG

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Creator Supports NCD HPV Pilot Vaccination Program

Choosing Food

The science of taste: Why we choose fries over broccoli

PNG's MRI Scanner

Public health system in PNG gets first MRI scanner

Monday, September 19, 2016

Battling TB on the frontline in PNG

By Larissa Tuohy, Communications Manager, ChildFund Australia

For Papua New Guinean health worker Celestine I’Ova, tackling the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic in her country has become somewhat of a personal crusade, after losing both of her parents to TB and contracting the disease herself.

More than 9,000 people have died from TB in PNG over the past three years – including hundreds of children – and it is people like Celestine working on the frontline who urgently need support to tackle this terrible but treatable disease.

“I always wanted to help sick people get better, but I never wanted to work with TB patients. I was afraid I would catch it,” says Celestine.  Celestine is a health worker at a small rural clinic in Papua New Guinea’s Central Province.

The clinic is a basic shack, typical of many across PNG. There are just six staff to provide support for around 15,000 people, some of them travelling six hours by boat for medical attention.

Despite having over 20 years of frontline experience as a community health worker, TB has always held a particular terror for Celestine. Both of her parents died from the disease, and she admits avoiding TB patients for years afterwards.

“I did not want to learn how to treat TB patients,” she says. “Also, with the deteriorating health facilities and lack of resources at our health centre, I felt it was not safe for us. When TB patients came, I never stood in front of them or spoke to them; I always moved away from the patients.”

In PNG, however, TB is a growing epidemic. Over the past three years, it has killed 9,000 people in the Pacific island nation, with children particularly susceptible to the most disabling forms of the disease. By comparison, the Ebola virus, which galvanised such international fear and concern, killed 11,300 people globally in the same period.

ChildFund Australia – which has launched a report on the TB epidemic and its devastating impact on children – has been working in Papua New Guinea for the past 20 years, stepping up efforts to reduce the spread of TB since 2013.

“Tuberculosis is an entirely preventable and curable disease,” says ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence. “It is absolutely critical that health workers in rural areas have the right tools and knowledge to prevent and treat the disease, and to raise awareness about the importance of early medical intervention.”

ChildFund is among several organisations playing a critical role in training and equipping health workers to detect TB early and ensure patients complete their full course of treatment.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Over 700 nurses in PNG stop work despite dialogue

ABOUT 700 nurses from the National Capital District, Alotau and Mendi in Papua New Guinea walked off their jobs yesterday despite their union executives’ announcement to call off a stop-work to allow for a dialogue with the Government.
Those in Alotau (about 100) and Mendi (about 400) in Southern Highlands said they went ahead because they had not heard otherwise from their union executives.
PNG Nurses Association Port Moresby branch president Rosemary Bates told The National that 200 members had decided to go ahead with the protest despite the association’s decision to cancel the stop-work.
Bates said members covering the Port Moresby General Hospital, NCD Health, Department of Health, Laloki and PNG Defence Force decided to go ahead with the stop-work because they were not happy with comments by Department of Personnel Management Secretary John Kali and Industrial Registrar Helen Saleu that their action would not be illegal. “It was the members’ decision and they all assembled at the nurses association building at 8am where they waited for the outcome of the meeting by the Government,” Bates said.
“Our president Steven Nawik told us to wait for the outcome of the decision but the members decided to go ahead as planned.”
Alotau and Mendi nurses also withdrew their services yesterday because they said there was no formal advice from the officials so they maintained their stand to walk off their jobs.
Alotau president Grace Mark confirmed that more than 100 nurses stopped work yesterday and had gathered at the union office awaiting response from their union officials.
“Our members were adamant about going ahead with the stop-work because we did not get any official notice from the union executives,” Mark said.
“Our chief executive officer for Alotau General Hospital was informed of our actions because it is a long-awaited issue and the nurses are confident about taking necessary action.
“We will return tomorrow (today) and continue our stop-work until we get a response from the union executives.”
Mendi branch president Benedict Laba said 400-plus nurses stopped work yesterday as planned.
He said that the nurses were from Hela and Southern Highlands provincial health services.
Association general secretary Edward Foe said the NCD nurses decided to stop work and it was beyond its control.
“It’s their decision to walk out of work and we really don’t have much control over that,” Foe said.   The National

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Scientists say making babies without eggs may be possible

Scientists say early experiments suggest it may one day be possible to make babies without using eggs.

They have succeeded in creating healthy baby mice by tricking sperm into believing they were fertilising normal eggs.

The findings in Nature Communications, could, in the distant future, mean women can be removed from the baby-making process, say the researchers.

For now, the work helps to explain some of the details of fertilisation.

End of mum and dad?

The University of Bath scientists started with an unfertilised egg in their experiments.

They used chemicals to trick it into becoming a pseudo-embryo.

These "fake" embryos share much in common with ordinary cells, such as skin cells, in the way they divide and control their DNA.

The researchers reasoned that if injecting sperm into mouse pseudo-embryos could produce healthy babies, then it might one day be possible to achieve a similar result in humans using cells that are not from eggs.

In the mouse experiments, the odds of achieving a successful pregnancy was one in four.

Dr Tony Perry, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: "This is the first time that anyone has been able to show that anything other than an egg can combine with a sperm in this way to give rise to offspring.

"It overturns nearly 200 years of thinking."

Those baby mice were healthy, had a normal life expectancy and had healthy pups of their own.


The goal of the researchers is to understand the exact mechanisms of fertilisation because what happens when a sperm fuses with an egg is still a bit of a mystery.

For example, the egg completely strips the sperm's DNA of all its chemical clothing and re-dresses it.

That stops the sperm behaving like a sperm and makes it act like an embryo, but how the "costume change" takes place is not clear.

Removing the need for an egg could have a wider impact on society.

Dr Perry said: "One possibility, in the distant future, is that it might be possible that ordinary cells in the body can be combined with a sperm so that an embryo is formed."

In other words, two men could have a child, with one donating an ordinary cell and the other, sperm.

Or one man could have his own child using his own cells and sperm - with that child being more like a non-identical twin than a clone.

Dr Perry stressed that such scenarios were still "speculative and fanciful" at this stage.

Earlier this year in China, scientists were able to make sperm from stem cells and then fertilise an egg to produce healthy mice.

Dr Perry suggested that combining the two fields of research may eventually do without the need for sperm and eggs altogether.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, from the Francis Crick Institute, commented: "I'm not surprised that the authors are excited about this.

"I think it is a very interesting paper, and a technical tour de force and I am sure it will tell us something important about reprogramming at these early steps of development that are relevant to both fertilisation and single cell nuclear transfer [cloning].

"And, perhaps more broadly, about reprogramming of cell fate in other situations.

"It doesn't yet tell us how, but the paper gives a number of clear pointers."

Source:  BBC

New clinic opens at Lae ward

LAE businessman Sir Bob Sinclair yesterday opened a new clinic at the Ward Two council area.
The Sir Bob Sinclair Clinic will serve people in Ward Two who had been travelling to the city to seek medical treatment there.
The building cost more than K350,000.
Sir Bob said saving lives was important.
“And I thought if I am going to do something constructive and is going to save lives, here is an opportunity. Today, we see the fruits of Sir Bob Sinclair Clinic. And if the clinic can save one life, everyone would be all happy.”
He promised to maintain the clinic “to the day I die”.
Ward councillor Carol Yawing said her ward was the last in the Lae Urban Local Level Government to have a health centre.
“You would not go looking for treatment in other health centres if you are sick, because the health centre is at your doorsteps,” she said.
Yawing paid tribute to former ward councillor Michael Koi who initiated the idea of the health centre. The National

Monday, September 12, 2016

Breast Cancer in Papua New Guinea

Dr Waine is PNG’s leading expert on the liver, pancreas and breast cancer surgery. He is internationally certified by the International Hepato Biliary Pancreas Association (IHPBA) and a visiting fellow on liver cancer research at Singapore General Hospital. Dr Waine has a MD (Doctor of Medicine) from Auckland University (2013) where he remains a research fellow. He completed his EMST (Early Management of Severe Trauma), CCRiSP (Care of the Critically ill Surgical Patient) and Diploma in Emergency Surgery at Melbourne’s Royal College of Surgeons in 2010, and Master of Surgery (MMED) from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in 2008. His special interests are in breast cancer surgery and oncology research, and he believes in promoting awareness and advocating for access to much needed services. His research has led him to present at global cancer events at the the universities of Washington, Stanford, San Francisco and recently at the 2016 World Liver and Transplant conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. His next major presentation will be on Liver Cancer at the University of George Washington, Washington DC, next year. Amidst his busy schedule, Dr Waine still makes time for community health awareness and conducts free clinical checks in rural areas whenever he can. This includes climbing PNG’s highest mountain, Mt Wilhelm, to raise awareness and funds for Breast Cancer, and walking the Kokoda Track for Cervical Cancer. He has been the US Embassy Port Moresby’s Keynote Speaker at their annual PNG Women’s Forums and World Cancer Day events. He loves the ocean, the underwater war relics of East New Britain Province and is a certified scuba diver since 2010. Currently, Dr Waine is the senior lecturer in surgery at UPNG’s school of medicine and health sciences, and honorary specialist surgeon at Port Moresby General Hospital where he is in charge of the country’s largest surgical unit.

Building A Healthy PNG

Breast Cancer in Papua New Guinea has taken such a dramatic shift in pattern unlike any seen in other parts of the world. In the last five years alone, I’ve witnessed and experienced first-hand this pattern turn into a marathon: a race against time; age; stage of cancer progression; acceptance; and proper treatment.

A major challenge in my line of work is that too often, women present at a late stage of cancer making treatment difficult. Often times, it is too late for surgery and the most we can do is help relieve their pain and suffering through palliative care - an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness. Today, breast cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the country.

As an honorary surgeon at Port Moresby General Hospital, my team and I see on average about 40 new patients every Monday morning during our clinical checks. A quarter of these patients will usually present a breast problem – usually a lump, an ulcer or they come with macerated, large breasts. Data I’ve recorded over the last five years indicate that 60 per cent of these patients have cancer. This means out of every ten patients with a breast problem, six of them will have cancers while the other four will have some other infection or disease.

I often ask myself "why this rapid progression? Perhaps there were no proper recording systems in the past? Have lifestyles changed so drastically?" But even more alarming is the younger, fertile, age-group of women presenting with breast cancer. Many are urban dwelling, working-class between the ages of 25 and 35. The youngest breast cancer patient I have treated is an 18-year-old from the Central Province.

Her right side breast was extremely large, covering almost half of her body and almost half of her body weight. She admitted using traditional herbs as her initial means of (self) treatment - a common practice among many Papua New Guineans and that has not been helpful in the treatment of breast cancers, as was in her case. There are four stages to treatment of breast cancer.

My area of treatment care is usually the first stage and that is surgery or an operation called Mastectomy (the removal of the breast in the advanced stage).

This particular issue is usually contested, and often times we never get it solved on the first visit. In fact, I usually ask for their partners or husbands to come together in the next visit so we can discuss further, but the solution is never clear cut as is the up-hill battle that usually follows.

Then there is the pattern of late presentations to the hospital. Women tend to wait until their breast lumps are bigger in size or when they see a second lump on the same breast or in their armpit.

Others come to see me when their lump breaks open and becomes an ulcer. In clinical terms, it means they have advanced into a later stage of their disease progress and this often has detrimental outcomes.

Like the 18 year old Central woman, many women chose to use traditional herbs as their first form of treatment before they seek help at the hospital. By then, it is often too late, with the survival rate of late stages being at 5 per cent.

The next stages are chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then hormonal treatment. The struggle along with the duration, referral system, personal logistics and resources involved in a complete treatment can become a burden itself to the patient and her family, which has resulted in many defaulters. They stop treatment halfway or three quarters of the way, which can cause the cancer to re-appear (recurrence).

It is never easy losing a patient to death. But I have lost patients half way through their treatment due to some of the factors above.Most, if not all of these cases, can be prevented if treated at an early stage.

Nonetheless, I continue to do the work I love to do without bouncing into discussion over the national policy on cancer and the state of cancer services in our beautiful country.

Although statistics has its place in public health policy, individual breast cancer patient responses and their quest to win the cancer battle is often a personal event, which typically extends into the immediate family and may include my team of nurses and doctors.

At the end of my contact with my patients, I advise each of them to eat healthy food, avoid smoking, avoid alcohol and betel nut, and to exercise regularly.

Cancer is categorised under Non-Communicable Diseases, also known as lifestyle diseases. Lead a healthy lifestyle, with healthy habits – and you can prevent getting cancer.

To conclude, I appeal to all our women: please have your breasts examined by an expert health practitioner, your nurse or doctor. Your doctor should be able to refer you early if there is any suspicion or doubt of cancer. Every individual person must be vigilant with what goes on in their body. Let’s make it all our individual right and fight to have a healthy life so we can build not just ourselves, but our families, our communities and this wonderful country we call home – Papua New Guinea.

World First Aid Day - September 10th, 2016

World First Aid Day was instituted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 2000 and has been celebrated each year ever since.
The term “first aid” refers to the assistance given to anyone suffering a sudden injury or illness. Its main goals are to preserve life and prevent the condition from worsening. It is not always performed by medical personnel. In emergency situations, ordinary people often have to perform first aid to save someone's life.
First aid does not necessarily require any prior knowledge and can involve improvisation. However, if the person performing first aid doesn't know what they are doing, they might hurt instead of helping. That is why the IFRC encourages people to undergo basic first aid training or at least educate themselves using any available reliable sources.
World First Aid Day aims at raising awareness of how first aid can prevent injuries and save lives in everyday and crisis situations, as well as at promoting the accessibility of the first aid. POMGEN

Port Moresby General Hospital has new Children's Emergency Department

Port Moresby General Hospital has converted some of its Children’s Outpatient Clinic into a Children’s Emergency Department.
Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Grant. R. Muddle, said the facility was converted in June 2015 to treat children’s emergency referral cases from urban clinics, private clinics, and Central province clinics including Gulf province.
“The children’s serious health conditions are now being treated separately from adults so quality care and treatment are given to them as well, specialized pediatric emergency nurses are dealing with pediatric emergency cases” Mr. Muddle said.
This separation will also reduce the cross infection that might occur from adults to children.
The Children’s emergency Department operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week with Community Health Worker (CHW), nurses and doctors treating sick children who come all over the city. This is NOT a Children’s Outpatient Clinic open 24 hours per day, it is an Emergency Department.
Health Minister Hon. Michael Malabag was impressed with the set up and the cleanliness when he visited the facility last week.
“This separation of child care from adult wards and providing treatment for these children at its own clinic is exceptionally good,” Hon. Michael Malabag said.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


YWAM’s Medical Ship, the MV Pacific Link, has just completed a successful deployment to Madang Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The MV Pacific Link and her team of volunteers visited villages throughout Bogia, Sumkar, Madang and Rai Coast districts over the course of 8 months. Over 48,000 healthcare and training services were delivered, valued at over 4.6 million PGK.

The MV Pacific Link’s Director, Mr Brett Curtis, said that the MV Pacific Link’s first voyage to Madang Province was very special.

“Thousands of lives have been impacted over the last 8 months, including a woman named Luweng from Kar Kar Island, who had a pterygium (tissue growth) on her eye. Luweng’s sight dramatically improved after an eye surgery in our onboard operating theatre.
“Luweng could not stop saying thank you to our surgeon after the patch was removed the next day. It is easy to forget how much we rely on our vision until we meet someone who has lost it, it was wonderful to witness Luweng’s new lease on life.
“We are very grateful for the volunteers who joined us from around the world, our generous donors and Madang Provincial Health for partnering with us in making this voyage such a success,” said Mr Curtis.
Other field activities delivered over the last 8 months include over 5,803 immunisations, 1,294 dentistry procedures and health promotion delivered to 5,293 people.

Madang Province Director of Health, Mr Markus Kachau, said that the collaboration with YWAM Medical Ships has strengthened healthcare delivery in Madang Province.
“Our partnership with YWAM has been a great support in helping to achieve the objectives outlined in our health plan. Our health workers have been able to work with the YWAM Medical Ships healthcare volunteers in delivering both essential and specialised health services to some of our province’s most remote areas.

“I’m very grateful for this partnership that has been established – I hope that this voyage is just the beginning of much more to come,” said Mr Kachau.
Key stakeholders will be hearing a first-hand report from the outreach aboard the MV Pacific Link in Madang port throughout this week before she sets sail for her maiden voyage to Wewak.
YWAM's second medical ship, the MV YWAM PNG, will be returning to Papua New Guinea in October for an eight-month deployment throughout the Southern region and Huon Gulf.

Nurses in Papua New Guinea warn of stop work

NURSES have threatened to stage a stop-work from Wednesday if the Government fails to implement an agreement it signed with the union.
PNG Nurses Association (PNGNA) acting president Steven Nawik said the Government had ignored the agreement it reached with the nurses.
“We want to advise the public that nurses serving in rural health facilities, from community health posts to health centres, provincial hospitals and the four regional referral hospitals will withdraw services on Wednesday,” Nawik said.
The association last November had asked the Government parties to sign the 2011-2013 log of claims which had expired.
It made a submission to the Government for the review but was turned down.
The agreement by Papua New Guinea Nurses Association, Personnel Management and Health department is supposed to look at pay increases, a work value study to be conducted on all nurses throughout the country and it calls for an establishment of a housing committee.
He said they had written to the department and submitted a proposal to the Health Department to start the work value study in January this year but it never eventuated.
“I must make it very clear that PNGNA has followed all processes and procedures,” he said.
“We have written to the industrial registrar to hold a secret ballot. Until now, we have not got a response from industrial registrar’s office.”
He said they met Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari in July who said they were working on a schedule for implementation.
“They gave us an assurance that due to the current financial situation, they would draw up a schedule for the implementation process,” he said. The National