PNG hospital chief hopeful of return to full services soon

3:45 pm on 7 April 2021

The chief executive officer of Papua New Guinea's main hospital says there are hopes of a return to full services before the end of the month

Port Moresby General Hospital has been struggling with a surge in Covid-19 cases in the capital which includes many health workers.

The hospital was forced to suspend some services in order to free up wards to accomodate the increased number of covid patients.

Dr Paki Molumi said the load at his hospital will soon ease after the recent opening of an additional covid field hospital at Taurama Aquatic Centre.

"Because if we don't open up service and return to normal, we are creating another co-morbidity for the patients. We have to continue to manage TB, malaria, half these diseases. We must continue providing that service.

"So by next week or following week we hope to open up all our services and return to normal, once the load is taken off us."

So far PNG has recorded almost eight thousand confirmed covid cases, and 67 deaths from the coronavirus.

The vast majority of the deaths have been in the National Capital District which has confirmed three thousand cases to date.

Australia and New Zealand are among the partner countries who have sent PPE and medical supplies to help PNG health services treat covid-19 patients. Australia has also sent a medical team to assist.

According to Dr Molumi, non-pharmaceutical safety measures put in place in the capital including restrictions on gatherings, and mandatory mask use could help further ease the burden on health facilities.

He said there were indications in the past few days that the rate of infection in Moresby was starting to slow.

"We would see a better picture in the next two weeks or so. Probably by the end of the month we would have all our staff back at work. We just have to see how the case numbers play out."

PNG's vaccine rollout began last week after Australia sent an initial 8000 doses of AstraZeneca, with health workers being given early opportunities to be vaccinated.

But progress has been slow, with training and awareness programmes getting underway before the easter break halted the programme for a few days.

Health workers at Moresby General were prioritised, although it is not mandatory to get the shot.

"So as of today (6 April) we had about two hundred or so staff vaccinated. We have a staff strength of 1,636. So two hundred is just over ten percent," Dr Molumi said.

"Mostly the doctors have vaccinated. But the big concern for us is in the nursing division, where the unions have come out seeking more information. Many of the nursing staff are reluctant to get themselves vaccinated.

Port Moresby General Hospital

Port Moresby General Hospital Photo: POM General Hospital

"So obviously we have issues with getting our staff vaccinated, combined with all this misinformation that's out there.

"We've also escalated this to the Department of Health so that we can provide more information to our frontline staff so that when vaccines are available, everyone should be vaccinated."

Meanwhile, a shipment of 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to arrive in PNG from India under the Coax facility within a fortnight.