9 Jul 2013

MSF opens new clinic for abuse victims in Port Moresby

5:25 pm on 9 July 2013

The non-government organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres says it is vital victims of physical and sexual abuse get emergency medical care as close to home as possible.

Its head of mission in Papua New Guinea, Paul Brockmann, says its new clinic at 9 Mile in Port Moresby fulfils this role and he hopes it will be the forerunner of many others around the country.

He told Don Wiseman the clinic, which is providing integrated care, including psychological aid, to survivors of family and sexual violence, is nurse driven.

PAUL BROCKMANN: The more nurses you train in how to feel comfortable... No-one is ever going to feel really comfortable responding to a child who's experienced an extreme form of mental and physical abuse, but as medical care providers it's our responsibility to really understand what are those needs? And in the case of sexual violence and especially rape, you need to get post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV infections into someone within 72 hours. The sooner you administer that, the more effective it is in preventing an infection. The same applies for an emergency contraception in the case of if someone doesn't want an unwanted pregnancy, you need to administer that quickly, as well. And then, of course, there's the physical first aid and immediate emergency medical treatment for cuts, bruises, broken bones, which can come up. And we are really working to integrate at least a psychological stabilisation model. Traditionally, what you would do, say, in Australia and my home, in the US, with a survivor of rape and some of the more serious types of abuse that we see here, is you'd offer multiple sessions of mental health trauma counselling. What we found here in PNG is that a lot of people don't have the ability to come back for second sessions, third sessions, fourth sessions. So what we're trying to do is make sure in that very first session that we get the most basic essentials taken care of, and that includes at least psychological first aid, which helps normalise someone and helps trigger natural coping mechanisms. 'Cause we all have the ability to get on with things, but sometimes events can just throw us out of our equilibrium, and some of these situations do so. So psychological first aid helps people at least say, 'How am I going to get home safely today? How am I going to get dinner? How am I going to take care of my immediate needs?' And, of course, we really encourage and invite people to come back for further sessions.

DON WISEMAN: So being closer to where a lot of these events are taking place, you must be seeing a different sort of response happening.

PB: We definitely do. We've been working in the 9 Mile centre only about a month and a half at this point, and we certainly hope with this project that there are other centres and hospitals as well here in Port Moresby that we'll be working in in the coming weeks. We're establishing those agreements and frameworks right now. And then we do hope to get out to provinces, as well. But there are times where it's really very important for patients to be able to receive emergency medical care as close to home as possible with medical practitioners who know what the needs are for medical and psychosocial care, to stabilise and treat and prevent further infections and wounds from happening.