For the last five years, I have been repeating the same story: ‘We have a crisis in the health system.”
The rest of the country can see it. The people who are victims of the medicine shortages all over the country keep speaking out about it. Health workers have cried while being interviewed because they simply can’t save lives.
And we’re not talking about the expensive cancer treatment and operations families have to pay for. It’s the basics that are lacking. Antibiotics, malaria drugs, family planning drugs and consumables. The clinics don’t have them. Or even if they have them, the supplies are not enough for their catchment areas.
Personally, I have emailed the Health Secretary, Pascoe Kase, on the cancer unit in Lae, the ill-treatment of the late Dr. John Niblet and the medicine shortages. I have called and sent text messages.
I found that the only way get the (former) government’s attention was to produce a series of live videos on Facebook berating the Health Minister and the ‘higher ups’ until the issue got discussed on the floor of Parliament.
It took a change of government before health workers truly felt free to openly discuss the medicine shortages. When the new PM, James Marape, travelled to Lae on his second visit, he came with the Health Minister, Elias Kapavore, and Secretary Kase.
We put the question of medicine shortages to him yet again. The Health Secretary was indeed quick to defend saying the medicine shortage was a “broad” assumption and that the problem was with the area medical stores. He went on further to state that a lot of the blame lay with staff at the clinics.
I said: “You have to go to the clinics and talk to staff because the information you are giving me here is wrong.” (I have the video). It turned into a tense exchange which we later had to cut short.
After more than five years, Secretary Kase is now “admitting” that there are problems. I could say ‘better late than never.’ But…No. We wanted that admission earlier. We wanted an acknowledgment of the problem and it is almost 10 years overdue.
Senior doctors Like Sam Yokopua, Ludwig Nanawar and Alex Peawi have all threatened to resign over the unresolved problems that continue to hurt their patients. Dr. Sam Yokopua, has become something of a fundraiser, going out of his way to ask the public for support for medicines and consumables because, the system is not supporting him.
Things need to change. Those in power need to realize that the people pay their salaries and the people want answers.