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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Take medication or die: TB survivor

TUBERCULOSIS patients have been told to take their medications or die of a preventable disease, a TB survivor has advised. Terence Moka is the executive officer to National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop. Mr Moka used the NCD TB Strategic Plan 2016-2020 launched at the NCD hall yesterday and spoke briefly about his experience with the dreaded yet curable disease TB when he contracted it in 2003. A sports personality, he contracted TB in 2003 in East Sepik and it took eight months for any health specialists to explain to him and confirm the type of diseases he had. He was tested for illnesses such as malaria and pneumonia. “For me to go through the medical checks and not find out what was wrong almost devastated me,” Mr Moka said.

NCD supports fight against TB

HEALTH Department plans to shift some of it responsibilities to National Capital District health services in preparation for the city’s Provincial Health Authority status.

Minister Michael Malabag found the launch of the National Capital District five-year tuberculosis strategic plan 2016-20 an opportune time to make the announcement and praised NCD in its away forward with its plans to fight the dreaded disease.

The provincial health authority is a unified health system that oversees management of health services.

Currently the NCD health services come under the Health Department but under the provincial health authority arrangement, all NCD urban clinics would be transferred to the NCD health services with the new Gerehu Hospital as the flagship of the authority.

Mr Malabag called for close collaboration with partners and public to fight TB because according to World Bank, loss of productivity attributed to TB was 4 to 7 per cent of some of GDP.

“Studies have shown that there is a strong association between high TB incidences and low gross national per capital income,” he said.

He said that distinguished labour capacity leaves little room for economic growth and GDP expansion that a low middle-income country such as PNG so desperately needed.

He agreed that cost of TB is a huge challenge.

This is because the average cost of standard TB treatment is K75, the average cost of single multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) treatment is K16,000 and an average cost of single cost of Extreme Resistance drug TB (XDR-TB) is K44,250. Post Courier

TB patients don’t finish treatment

PAPUA New Guinea has a long history of accessing tuberculosis drugs with poor supervision. Large proportions of patients do not finish their treatment. This was a serious concern raised yet again yesterday at another campaign and this time, a bigger one to curb the spread of the dreaded disease TB. World Health Organisation country representative Dr Pieter Van Maraan and the Health Department Deputy Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala both say that PNG has never been able to control TB which has the potential to spiral out of control. “Large proportions of patients don’t finish their treatment, poor quality diagnosis, limited capacity promptly to identity patients with drug resistance TB, overcrowded settlement and extreme poverty. All these factors contribute alarmingly to TB drug resistance situation in the nation’s capital and the country,” Dr Van Maraan said. At the National Capital District Commission’s five-year TB strategic plan (2016-20) launch yesterday, it was reported that there are 384 reported cases TB of which 146 are admitted to Port Moresby General Hospital. Some have defaulted from TB treatment regime and pose danger to community and could not be reached by NCD TB surveillance team. NCD, like Gulf and Western, is hot spot for TB and concerns have also been raised that although the nation’s capital houses 5 per cent of PNG’s population, it has a quarter of TB challenge. Health Minister Michael Malabag and NCD Governor Powes Parkop launched the plan and pledged their support to fight TB. Separately, Mr Parkop said that while there was a lot of infrastructure development and law and order programs in the city, people need to take ownership of cleanliness but it starts with individual’s health. By doing so, TB could be eradicated. Other partners that pledged support are Australian High Commission and the US Government.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Australia cuts HIV funding in PNG, future of thousands living with HIV uncertain

UP TO 10,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) face an uncertain future and thousands of women and children will be exposed to health risks after the Australian Government announced it will discontinue funding for recipients of HIV and reproductive health grants across Papua New Guinea.

The lives of the PLHIV are prolonged when they go on antiretroviral therapy (ART) as it suppresses the virus and stops the progression of the disease that leads to full blown AIDS. However, access to that life-saving treatment will end after the Australian High Commission announced its intention to discontinue funding for recipients of HIV and reproductive health grants.

The discontinuation of funding will mean women and children loosing access to critical reproductive and child healthcare services, especially in rural and remote communities.

The Post-Courier has obtained a confidential Australian Government Briefing Note titled "The Potential Impact of Australian Government Funded Grant Closures on HIV and Reproductive Health Services in Papua New Guinea", which was prepared on October 7, 2016 and contains details on 19 NGOs and civil society organisations that will be affected by the funding cut and recommends a smooth transition.

A Papua New Guinean woman living with HIV, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told this newspaper yesterday that she was not aware of the Australian Government’s funding of the life-saving medication and the discontinuation of its funding until last month. The ART has kept her alive for the last 14 years. See separate story on Page 4.

An Australian High Commission spokesperson told this newspaper yesterday that Australia is not withdrawing support from PNG’s HIV response.

"Australia is not withdrawing support from the HIV response in Papua New Guinea. All grants related to HIV/AIDS treatment will continue to the planned conclusion date of 30 June 2017, after which new arrangements will be put in place. We are working with the PNG National Department of Health and other stakeholders to help strengthen PNG’s ability to better and more sustainably deliver health services, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive health programs," she said.

Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Micheal Malabag, who is currently in Manila for a WHO Western Regional Committee Meeting, said he has spoken to donors on the funding challenges plaguing the country’s HIV response and will address it next week when he returns.

But the response from the National Government to the looming funding shortfall will be haphazard as its lead agency – the National AIDS Council Secretariat (NACS) – is currently at the center of a tug-of-war between NACS director Peter Bire and the council board. Email correspondence sighted by this newspaper show the board – which comprises representatives from the Department of Health, Department of National Planning, Department of Community Development, Department of Education, UN, churches and the private sector – appointed NACS research manager Tony Lupiwa acting director pending the return of Mr Malabag.

The Minister, when alerted to the standoff at the organization yesterday, said he is annoyed at the developments and will resolve it after he gets advice from the State Solicitor, the Department of Personnel Management and the Department of Health.

Mr Bire, whose contractor as director expired in March this year but continues to hold himself out as the legitimate appointee, told this newspaper that the Australian High Commission did not consult NACS and relevant State agencies before making its decision and the news is shocking.

The Australian Government Briefing Note states that there were 22,548 PLHIV receiving ART as of mid-2016 in PNG. The cessation of grants from the Australian government will affect 8-10,000 PLHIV.

Source: Post Courier

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The VScan pilot project saving lives in PNG

IT HAS been said, "Whatever there be of progress in life, comes not through adaption, but through daring." Henry Miller.

It is this "daring" to believe that the people of Papua New Guinea should have access to as much medical intervention and technology available, not just what they have always used or had, that contributed to Vscan Pilot Project of the Papua New Guinea Tribal Foundation ("Tribal Foundation").

On September 12, 2016, Dr Glen Mola wrote an opinion letter regarding the Tribal Foundation’s VScan Pilot Project. This personal opinion letter was printed in the Yu Tok section of the Post-Courier, and unfortunately was grossly inaccurate. Dr Mola’s statements attempt to undermine the hard working professionals who are on the front line serving PNG’s rural population.

Interestingly, Dr Mola has written opinions not based on any first hand experience with the Vscans. Our partners at the project hospitals and health centres cannot recall ever having a visit by Dr Mola, nor has he been involved in the project, so his information is significantly lacking and created from facts unknown to any of the participants in this progressive project.

By way of background, the VScan is an innovative ultrasound device that was designed by General Electric (GE), especially for rural healthcare providers, and has in fact been introduced in other developing countries with great success. The VScan is designed to enhance capabilities of properly trained healthcare providers and is portable, robust, and relatively simple to use. It is especially useful for assessing pregnant women, but is also quite capable of detecting bone fractures, internal bleeding, and other ailments often treated in rural PNG. GE donated the use of eight VScan Units for a two year pilot project the Tribal Foundation has been conducting in partnership with the Enga Provincial Health Authority.

Mola’s suggestion that Tribal Foundation placed the "medical toy" in the hands of untrained HEOs who are now "keeping them in their houses where they are used to perform private scans" would be laughable if it were not such an insult to General Electric, The Tribal Foundation, Enga Provincial Health Authority, the five local doctors (one is a surgeon) two midwives, two well trained HEOs, and a missionary nurse, who are directly involved in the project.

His letter was also an insult to Tribal Foundation’s own medical directors and global health experts, Professor Hauswald (ED Physician) and Professor Kerr (OB/GYN Physician) who both spent a month in Enga Province last year introducing the project and providing training to the healthcare providers.

As a matter of policy, the Tribal Foundation always seeks to place Papua New Guineans in charge of our projects, and provide international support when needed.

In the case of the VScan Pilot Project, we placed a local doctor in Enga in charge of the project, supported by a local health administrator, and further supported by our medical directors, Drs Hauswald and Kerr. The two-year pilot, or test, project has already proven to be a success, and we recently received a report from Drs Hauswald and Kerr from their one year follow up visit to Enga Province, that detailed how the VScan has enhanced services and saved lives. GE has also recently sent members of their organisation to assess progress.

As should come as no surprise, additional training was identified by both Tribal Foundation and GE. When there is a taste of positive results and what a piece of technology such as the VScan can provide to the people of Papua New Guinea, of course a natural reaction is "how can we do more with this device?" Towards this end, ongoing training has always been a part of the pilot project.

Long before Dr Mola’s "opinions" both GE and Tribal have planned to provide additional training this year. Furthermore, the local healthcare providers have given feedback to GE on how they can improve the VScan to make it more usable, especially while on patrol.

Last week I completed my own follow up visit to Enga Province where I met with healthcare providers who are quite happy with the VScan, and reported that it has greatly improved their ability to assess patients. An unexpected benefit is that fathers are attending prenatal visits with their wives so they too can see their unborn children and as a result of this experience, are reported to be more supportive during pregnancy. I also met with Mr Aaron Luai, CEO of Enga Provincial Health Authority, as well as Governor, Sir Peter Ipatas, who are both quite pleased with the project and the successes todate.

A few days after Dr Mola’s misleading letter to the Post-Courier we received this photograph and brief report from a missionary nurse who is using the VScan at a remote clinic in Gulf Province that the Tribal Foundation supports.

"VScan by GE has improved our care of patients! Yesterday we visualised a shattered ulna, broken radius, and today ruled out a broken leg. Thank you PNG Tribal Foundation."

I have found that new ideas are sometimes difficult and threatening to people. I recall when I was the president of Samaritan Aviation and my team and I were setting up the floatplane operation in the East Sepik Province. A few old timers from PNG’s aviation industry said a medical floatplane operation would never work. They soon became silent once the first lives were saved and later became supporters when the operation was proven to be a success. Just like them, Dr Mola is welcome to his own opinion, but he is not welcome to make up his own facts about Tribal Foundation’s project.

My mother is a nurse who served rural PNG as a health professional for twenty-five years. I grew up playing around remote health centres where my mother treated many patients. She is retired now but when she learned of the VScan she said; "I sure wish we had that device back in my day. It would have saved a lot of lives."

The Tribal Foundation is not new to rural health and has provided millions of Kina in medical supplies to PNG’s rural health centres and hospitals.

Rather than taking pot shots from the comforts of Port Moresby (maski lo gespaia nabaut) we suggest Dr Mola go on patrol with some of the dedicated and welltrained, local healthcare providers whose ability and integrity he publicly questioned. What he will find is hardworking professionals, with very few resources,who are out sacrificing every day to serve PNG’s rural population. With the VScan, they now have a tool that has already proven to be useful. This project is not about "medical toys" it is about saving lives and contrary to Mola’s misinformation, lives are being saved.

The author is the president of the non-profit organisation PNG Tribal Foundation.

Cancer fundraising event launched

THE annual Pink Ribbon Brunch has been launched in Port Moresby to promote awareness on women’s cancer in October.

The Papua New Guinea Cancer Foundation (PNGCF) announced the return of The Pink Ribbon Brunch, to be hosted on Friday 28th October in Port Moresby.

The annual Pink Ribbon Brunch was launched by the national sales manager of National Finance Ltd John Dickinson

“National Finance Ltd is so proud to be the new sponsor of PNG Cancer Foundation’s 2016 Pink Ribbon Brunch” Mr Dickinson said.

“The Pink Ribbon Brunch will be held at Laguna Hotel and we invite all our supporters to join us to raise as much money as possible to raise awareness on women’s cancer and provide education and support for the women and families affected by it,” he said.

PNG Cancer Foundation will use the funds from this event to educate the people of PNG on how to protect their families from cancer, provide free cancer screening and workshops at various locations around the country, and work with partner organisations to improve cancer control in the country.

PNGCF chief executive officer Dadi Toka Jr said that next month the foundation will host activities that address women’s cancers in PNG.

“Current statistics indicate that two women are dying every day from cervical cancer in PNG and 9 per cent of hospital admissions in Port Moresby are a result of patients diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Protect your family. Don’t smoke, don’t chew betelnut, reduce your alcohol intake, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly” he said.

Mr Toka expressed appreciation to National Finance Ltd for actively being involved in the work of PNG Cancer Foundation.