PNG doctors union to defy minister's gag order

8:41 am on 30 August 2017

The secretary of Papua New Guinea's Doctor's Association says it will not be silenced about critical public health issues.

Papua New Guinea (July 7, 2015) Hospitalman Jaime Cavalleroserna, from San Francisco, takes patient vitals during a community health engagement. Medical personnel from the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in Kokopo  during Pacific Partnership 2015.

Jaime Cavalleroserna, from San Francisco, takes patient vitals in Kokopo, Papua New Guiena during a community health engagement. Photo: US Navy/Mayra A. Conde

Sam Yockopua's comment comes after a directive by the new Health Minister gagging health professionals and hospital staff from making public statements.

Sir Puka Temu's ministerial circular bars anyone but himself from talking to media about public health matters.

Recently, Dr Yockopua and others have spoken out about frequent shortages of drugs and basic supplies at PNG's hospitals.

He said such problems were left unattended, if no one spoke up.

"I must make it very, very clear, that if we run short of medicines, we will continue making noise, irrespective of the ministerial orders in place.

"It will not stop us because if we wait for them (the government) it's going to take years and years and the patients will die.

"We will not wait for them. we will continue to make noise. we will continue to talk."

Dr Yockopua said Sir Puka's attempt to intimidate staff into staying quiet was a bad way to start his new role.

"If I were the minister what I would do is allow for alternative feeedback, alternative collateral source of information," he said.

"I would create a Facebook account, a Whatsapp account, email account, a hotline, and promote to people that if you find a problem along the way call this line or send the information so that you put the bureaucracy on red alert that if they're not performing there is an alternative source of information being passed up through the hierarchy."

Dr Yockopua said if information was being suppressed, it was bad for the overall population.

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