TB in PNG

Tuberculosis remains a major threat to PNG. The spread of the disease is becoming more widespread, affecting larger numbers of the population. Those who have developed resistance to the most effective drugs is ever growing. For some who suffer from the highly resistant strains, there are very few options. Treatment is often long and drawn out, requiring a strict adherence to drug protocols. Effective diagnosis is crucial but can often be problematic. A feeling of being overwhelmed by the situation is often common.

OCDP continues its support of Popondetta General Hospital in its fight against TB. In conjunction with the building of a specialised TB ward, training and mentoring of the medical staff is ongoing.

Doctors who recently undertook training with OCDP discussed their concerns about TB. Early detection and diagnosis of the disease of the coughing patient is crucial. Some sick people seeking treatment, need to travel for many hours or even days to reach a health facility. Upon arrival, diagnosis and treatment then occurs late affecting the possible success of the situation.

Other health professionals explained that isolation of people with TB can occur in the community. This is often due to a lack of public awareness. The stigma of having the disease leads to sick patients being ostracized by their communities where their family and friends are based. As a result, they are forced to not only deal with managing their TB but often how they will cope with minimal or no support.

TB can be treated as Mrs Mulagwaula recently explained. As one of the administration staff at PGH, she contracted the disease. She was placed on a six-month long treatment plan which she completed. Now Mrs Mulagwaula explains that she feels well once more. Her sincere gratitude went to OCDP for the training that is being conducted at the hospital.

TB is a complex but treatable disease. However, measures need to be addressed for this to occur. OCDP assists Popondetta General Hospital to help ensure that they can best treat TB.

Delivering in Different Surroundings

A new Labour Ward has been constructed at Popondetta General Hospital. This positive development for the hospital replaces a building that had first been constructed just after World War II.

Where expectant mothers give birth is an ongoing problem in PNG. Too many births still occur in the village where the chances of complications are extremely high. Often, very basically trained health professionals or those with no medical training are responsible for the birth of a baby. As well as the sanitation of the area being difficult, any complications can lead to dire results.
Mothers arriving at the new labour ward are able to access trained medical staff. They also enjoy an air conditioned, well-resourced setting to deliver their baby. An important part of the equation however, is that expectant mothers need to be able to plan to be near Popondetta General Hospital so that they can access these services when required.
The regular supply of reliable, in-date medicines is an ongoing problem within PNG. This affects all health facilities throughout the country, including Popondetta General Hospital and the Labour Ward.

Women are continually encouraged to give birth in a health facility in PNG. Maternal health rates remain high and the improvement of such facilities assists in addressing this vital issue.

A New Ward to Treat Tuberculosis

The new TB ward at Popondetta General Hospital has now been completed. It will assist the Medical Ward with highly contagious patients who suffer from TB. These patients who are currently in the Medical Ward, are amongst other patients who do not suffer from TB. A lack of available space has resulted in this mix. One of the aims of the new TB ward is to reduce the presence of infectious cases on the ward.

Several Australian based foundations have donated and the structure has been constructed in partnership with many members of the Popondetta business community. This has included Sime Darby, USG and PDC. We sincerely thank these kind contributors who have assisted the hospital with this important initiative.

As well as the physical building, OCDP has continued to conduct training sessions with the medical staff at PGH. Supporting staff in their understanding of infection control measures, effective diagnosis and treatment of TB are all areas of continual follow up so that the treatment of TB can aim to be the best possible.

Faces of Popondetta General Hospital – Dr Marianne Gale

OCDP would like to welcome a new member to the OCDP team. Dr Marianne Gale is a public health physician with extensive experience in the treatment of Tuberculosis. In the most recent trip to Popondetta General Hospital, she conducted training sessions on the diagnosis and treatment of Tuberculosis as well as the effective use of the new TB ward.

She has worked with the medical humanitarian organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for 5 years to improve health care for vulnerable populations in countries including Thailand, Malawi, Uganda, Niger, Cambodia, Armenia, Colombia and Papua New Guinea. Despite leaving full-time work with MSF in 2012, she has remained involved in international health issues through ad hoc consultancies and university teaching roles, including work at Daru in PNG. She is currently Medical Adviser, Office of the Chief Health Officer, NSW Ministry of Health. Her previous employment includes working as a Public Health Registrar in the NSW Ministry of Health; Field Doctor and Medical Adviser in Tuberculosis and HIV for MSF and Medical Officer at the Townsville Hospital.

Marianne is a Fellow of the Australian Faculty of Public Health Medicine. She has a Doctorate of Public Health from the University of New South Wales, a Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (Dist) from James Cook University and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (Hons) from the University of Western Australia.

Delivering Babies in PNG

Alan Opiri works delivering babies at Popondetta General Hospital. Born in Gulegule Village on Normandy Island in Milne Bay Province, his senior education was completed at Cameron Secondary School. Alan studied General Nursing at St Barnabas School of Nursing in Alotau, Milne Bay, situated in South Eastern PNG.

Before joining Popondetta General Hospital four years ago, Alan worked in various health facilities for Rural Health in his home province of Milne Bay. From 2001-2004, he was based at the coastal village, Rabaraba. Following this, Alan worked at Losuia, a village on Kiriwina Island which is part of the Kiriwina Islands. His work with Rural Health continued at Sehulea, Milne Bay Province until 2014 when Alan joined Popondetta General Hospital.

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.