Update on the New Ward

The new TB ward at Popondetta General Hospital will be the first of its kind in PNG. Plans for its completion are now within sight.

The roof has been completed as has the final fit out of the doors and windows. The deck surrounding the patient rooms is being installed with a sail type structure as cover between the two buildings. Plumbing and electrical services have nearly been finished. The painters will then start their work both inside and out.

The ward has six private rooms for patients with TB who are in very ill health. These people suffer from the most serious and contagious form of the disease. The ward has been designed to maximise cross flow ventilation. Family members will have access to their patient under the ‘sails’ between the two buildings or within the grounds.

Specialist nurses and doctors have had training from the OCDP medical team in caring for the patients, something that is updated regularly.

Electricity Out of Popondetta

Power lines have been appearing along the main road from Popondetta to Kokoda for some time. News is now beginning to break that electricity will soon be coming to villages outside the main town.

Currently, only those living in town have access to power. This new infrastructure is based on the generation of hydro-electric power from near Kokoda. This will allow those living in somewhat remote areas to have electricity. Many people do not know what it is like to have light at home when it is dark or use cooking facilities that do not require a naked flame or kerosene stoves.

However, there are still people in the very remote areas where electricity is not a possibility. Their locations and rough terrain make it too difficult it at this stage for conventional power generation to reach them.

A New Airport

A visit to Popondetta can only be done in one of two ways. Either walking across the Kokoda track over the Owen Stanley Ranges, which can take between one and two weeks or flying into Girua Airport.

Located fifteen minutes out of the town of Popondetta, it was originally one of many airstrips built during World War II

Construction began on a new terminal a few years ago. Completion is in sight with the final touches being put on the building right now. The structure has been designed in a similar way to other new terminals at airports within PNG.

The new terminal will offer a different feel to Popondetta. Currently, the old terminal is more like a shed and has no electricity and a torch is required for early morning check ins. Toilet facilities are very basic and the seating consists of old wooden benches. The new Girua Airport is an example of progress within a modern PNG.

A New Ward

A brand new ward for the treatment of Tuberculosis is under construction at Popondetta General Hospital. Built by a team of local builders, plumbers and electricians and led by Brisbane based construction group, Canstruct.

This new structure provides the hospital with the ability to isolate very sick patients suffering from TB. Currently it is difficult for this to occur. Highly contagious TB patients are forced to stay in wards throughout the hospital.

It has been designed for the specific treatment of this highly contagious disease. High ceilings, the provision for direct air flow, fans as well as isolation rooms for extremely unwell patients have all been included in the structure.

TB has become a high priority for PNG. It remains a major public health threat to the community. According to the World Health Organisation (2016), it kills more people in PNG than any other infectious disease. To make things worse, the high levels of drug resistant TB is growing.

This continues the commitment OCDP has for the treatment of TB. Training in the hospital is an ongoing initiative that we carry out in the identification and treatment of the disease.

Training at PGH

In the last few weeks, sessions of maternal health training have again occurred at Popondetta General Hospital (PGH). Many of the health professionals travelled long distances from places including Itokama, Ambasi, Gona, Sakarina, Wanigela, Tufi, Afore and Ako to attend the training.

Lester Dona was one of these people. Initially Lester was surprised at being offered a place at the two-day maternal update course. But then he remembered his former tutor with St Margaret’s at Oro Bay, John Gadebo, now headed up the training unit at the hospital.

The difficult part lay ahead with a full day of walking on a bush track and then waiting the next day to get a PMV to Popondetta town. At his health centre, he is the only qualified person and he explained how updating his skills and getting medical drugs were big problems. There had been a breakthrough however, and they now had access to an emergency helicopter mainly for pregnant women with blood pressure problems and bleeding.

Lester was one of twelve participants who travelled from outlying areas of Oro Province to attend the training. These areas are remote and sadly, the health care professionals are forced to deal with difficult situations on a constant basis.

Training at NBPOL

A continued commitment to the training of health care professionals in the improvement of child and maternal health has seen OCDP conduct training sessions with NBPOL in Popondetta.

NBPOL is the largest employer in Oro Province. Aid posts situated throughout the province provide health care to all employees and their families. These health facilities work in partnership with the government health centres as well as the hospital.

OCDP trained health professionals in the area of maternal health. Many women find that they cannot reach hospital independently and so turn to their nearest aid post for assistance when about to give birth. This training is designed to assist those who are often the only one a mother can turn to in her time of need.

The partnership NBPOL and OCDP share, aims to improve the maternal health of mothers in Oro Province.


News from the Hospital

Newsletter No 21

A number of changes have recently occurred at Popondetta General Hospital. A new CEO has been appointed. After nine years serving as an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist as well as CEO, Dr Gunzee Gawin has moved to Hela Province where he is CEO of all medical services. It is a challenging yet exciting adventure for him. Dr Gawin has been a huge supporter of the work of OCDP. His guidance and innovative ideas will be missed.

Dr Petrus Opum has accepted the role of CEO. Dr Opum is a surgeon who has worked at PGH for a number of years. Being known to the staff as well as the PGH environment is an advantage for him in this new role. OCDP wish both Dr Gawin and Dr Opum all the best in their new positions.

The eagerly awaited operating theatre was recently officially opened. This long anticipated addition will assist the hospital to provide treatment to patients in a more effective and timely manner.

The State of TB in PNG

Newsletter No 21

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease that is impacting heavily on the population of PNG. Official statistics put the infection rate in PNG amongst the highest in the world at 541 cases per 100,000 population/year but anecdotal evidence suggests the disease is far more widespread.

Access to transport, a lack of understanding of the disease by the population as well as health professionals and difficulty in obtaining drugs, have all resulted in the current situation.

Well established protocols in the treatment of TB need to be followed. Health professionals are gradually developing their skills in this area. OCDP provides mentoring, guidance and training in the adaptations of the guidelines for use in a practical setting.

OCDP is also about to embark on the construction of a TB ward for PGH. Careful planning to ensure particular specifications are included has been a necessary step to ensure the success of the ward. TB can be managed but a comprehensive approach is needed.

PNG National Elections 2017

Newsletter No 21

The election campaign to elect the next National Parliament is now underway and at the last report 3,332 candidates had nominated for the 111 seats. The number of female candidates has increased by 30 to 171.

In Oro Province, three seats will be contested by at total of approximately 131 candidates.

The campaign period will finish on 23 June when voting will commence throughout the country on a rotating basis. This is expected to take a fortnight to complete. The declaration of the poll is scheduled to occur on 24 July.

In order to combat any mismanagement of funds, each week K20 million will be released into two separate trust accounts for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and the Electoral Commission to fund the election. It is also expected that the Royal PNG Defence Force will be utilised.

Ballot papers have been sent from Indonesia and are being kept in a secure location. They will be released from Moresby to polling centres a fortnight before the start of voting.

As well as the chanting and singing, churches and other groups have asked supporters to avoid excesses and ensure that the election period remains peaceful.