12 Nov 2010

PNG priest says dysentery deaths preventable

4:10 pm on 12 November 2010

A Catholic priest in Papua New Guinea says the deaths of at least nine prison inmates could have been prevented if the authorities had moved sooner to control a dysentery outbreak.

At least six inmates were shot dead as prison officers tried to prevent a mass breakout at Baisu jail last week.

It's believed 55 prisoners tried to escape after at least three inmates died from dysentery in the jail, which the health authorities have since declared unsafe for human habitation.

The general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Father Victor Roche, says the dysentery outbreak is no surprise given the poor hygiene in the prison.

"That should not have happened that could have been avoided, if there was dysentery or signs of sickness and if they took immediate care, I'm sure there would not have been an attempt by the prisoners to try to run away."

Father Roche, who regularly visits Baisu jail, says it's overcrowded and he supports the removal of prisoners while improvements are made.