The new Tuberculosis Ward, funded largely by OCDP donations, has led to a great improvement in the operation of Popondetta General Hospital. Patients with this highly infectious disease can now be isolated in a separate building in the hospital grounds. This is particularly important to stop the spread of multi-drug resistant strains of TB, which are more difficult to treat and are on the rise in Oro Province.
With priority given to these cases, there are still occasions when other TB patients have to be accommodated in the general ward at Popondetta, putting others at risk. Through the leadership of OCDP’s specialist TB medical team, we have conducted training programs that have helped hospital staff recognise the signs of TB, encouraged the wearing of masks as well as teaching how to collect sputum samples and practise infection control.
Improved laboratory services mean diagnosis of TB has been reduced from up to two weeks to one or two days. Also helping with the situation, is the referral of cases to the Communicable Diseases Clinic in Popondetta. Despite these successes, TB remains rife in PNG. It can be successfully treated, as demonstrated by the virtual elimination of the disease in many countries, including Australia. But, as always in PNG, the challenge is finding adequate resources. Much more needs to be done but we are encouraged that OCDP’s work is making a difference.