Malaria struck MP who couldn’t find drugs at district clinic questions Health Minister

Ijivitari MP, Richard Masere, couldn’t find antimalarial drugs at district and provincial hospital in Popondetta, questioned the health minister about the drug shortages.  He was airlifted to Port Moresby for treatment. 

Before we get to the  story about the politican, let’s take a look back at how it  began…

Two weeks ago,   a senior doctor who works at Lae’s Angau Hospital added to the long list of health professionals who  are pointing out the obvious:   There is a severe medicine shortage  throughout the country.

Dr. Lincoln Menda  has served in the public health system for  36 years is the most senior health professional to  speak out about the medicine shortages.    His primary job is to visit clinics all over the Morobe Province to treat  and refer people with serious medical problems to the main hospitals.

He has not been able to do his job well.

We need drugs. We are facilitators of the end users of the drugs. They are our clients. We are now prescribing drugs for all our clients to buy it from the private sector,” he said.

 “We are passing the buck when the government is telling us that that drugs and everything are supposed to be free. Treatment in hospitals is  supposed to be free.

Dr. Menda was at the Milfordhaven clinic, one of seven urban clinics facing a dire shortage of medicines and other supplies.   In the clinic’s dispensary,  the shelves were  void of  much needed  basic  supplies.  On a list provided by the officer in charge,  he noted antibiotic, painkillers and  antimalarial drugs are in short supply.

“Everywhere I go, I carry folders of prescription forms. I prescribe everything for Panadol to amoxicillin to  other major medical drugs that need a doctor’s prescription.  Everything from Panadol,  asprin, malaria drugs are non-existent  currently.”

 Dr. Menda wasn’t the only one to speak out.  Nurses who are at the front line of health service delivery also spoke out about the shortages.

The situation also took a personal toll on health staff. Unable to handle patient numbers and unable to adequately treat those in need, one senior nurse broke down  in the middle on the interview.

 Over the course of the month, the health department  and the health minister didn’t respond adequately  to the concerns. Partly because  those at the top of the health pyramid including the minister weren’t  well informed of the situation on the ground.

It took a week of intense media attention, before the  health minister finally responded  with a statement outside of  parliament.The Minister’s statements came only after a shipment of drugs were sent to Lae a day before we took photographs of medicines stocked at the Area Medical store in Lae. We was not allowed to film inside the warehouse.

The Area store manager told us to get permission from the Health Secretary before any information could be released.  They also wouldn’t tell us when the shipment of medicines  arrived.

As nurses and medical professionals continued to speak out and while much of the focus was on Lae,  it was increasingly becoming obvious that the shortages  were  affecting nearly everyone…

…including members of parliament…

Ijivitari MP, Richard Masere, who was struck down by malaria couldn’t find  antimalarial drugs at the district and provincial hospitals.  He raised the issue in parliament.

So Puka Temu responded again this time in Parliament….

The lengthy explanation  also highlighted the fact that they wouldn’t have known about  if the media had not highlighted it…. And that  poor internal communications, a shortage of manpower and theft   were a contributing factors to the medicine shortages.

Any serious journalist in Papua New Guinea seeking an answer from the Health department knows,   that it is quite difficult getting a response from the Health Secretary.  Also, Maybe… just maybe…  It would help the public health system a lot if  more members of parliament  actually used the public health system.

Then, they would know how their voters felt.

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