K15,000 anti-venom fee will cause deaths: Doctor

National

The charging of K15,000 for anti-venom snakebite medicine by Port Moresby General Hospital will force patients to use traditional cures and lead to more deaths, warns a leading doctor.
“A K15,000 fee for anti-venom is going to make people revert to traditional cures and avoid coming to hospital leading to deadly consequences,” the hospital’s chief emergency director of Emergency Medicine and National Doctors Association secretary Dr Sam Yockopua said.
“People are going to die.”
Hospital chief executive Dr Umesh Gupta, in a memo to staff dated August 4, said that among other charges, the “user fee” for snakebite anti-venon was K15,000.
“The approved user fees are calculated to recover the very high maintenance costs and consumables for these new and tertiary care services,” Gupta’s memo said.
Last night, Yockopua warned:  “Lack of money and in fear of being refused, the simple people will resort to bush medicine.”
He has called on the National Doctors’ Association to fight the charges “tooth and nail, if after the hospital clinical coordinators collaborative meetings have been exhausted”.
Papua New Guinea has one of the highest localised snakebite rates in the world, according to the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre (CCTC), which works in collaboration with the University of PNG among others, in the treatment and research of snakebites.
“In some parts of PNG, snakebite mortality rates can be three times higher than those from other diseases such as malaria or tuberculosis,” CCTC said.
Dr Yockopua said CCTC “will not charge anyone so much as one toea for any of the anti-venom provided through CCTC”.
“CCTC has produced its anti-venom in collaboration with the hospital’s emergency department, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, The Melbourne University and research facility in Costa Rica, and have the capacity to supply 1000 vials for US$150,000 – which is their cost price to us.
“We still have 100-plus vials in Melbourne and are sending some to PNG this coming week so that PMGH does not have to buy in stock from outside pharmacies. But the point is that this message by CEO Gupta is going to make rural people stay away from hospital.”

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