A LOT has been said about the appointment of the POMGH chief executive officer in the media since my contract of employment expired in February this year.
It started with the minister saying that he wanted a non-medical person as CEO of POMGH and numerous comments appeared in the media.
The comments and criticisms are made by people who are ignorant about what is happening in a hospital, even including people within the health department.
Let me make it clear what is really needed for POMGH or health services in general.
POMGH is only part of the whole health system and should not be singled out and isolated by people merely for the purpose of self-gratification.
Criticisms have now turned into personal attacks. This is totally unacceptable.
The system that we operate should be critically scrutinised and overhauled.
I have been a hospital manager for more than 10 years and I have the experience on the issues affecting the delivery of health services.
I can only say that the system we operate contributed to the ineffective delivery of services.
It is not fair to criticise individuals or the management of a health institution such as POMGH as was the case for the last couple of months in the media.
In my experience, the health system is not given the priority it deserves by the Government.
The system is inadequately funded and the monthly operational funds never arrive on time.
The system is inadequately resourced including staffing; the institution’s infrastructure is very old and needs major refurbishment.
Corruption in some branches of the Health Department is a bane.
One other major chronic issue is the pharmaceutical supply system.
The department should take sole responsibility of the nation’s drug shortage.
The branch is disorganised and lacks adequate coordination, procurement, distribution and systematic supply of drugs to all public health institutions in the country.
If I were asked these questions, I can tell you the answers.
Do we know why drugs are forever short? Can we fix it?
Yes we do. We have tried rectifying the problem over and over for last 10 to 20 years but to no avail.
Why is this so?
This is the question I cannot answer because I do not know.
The information we get at the hospital level lack of funds or funds were not made available by Finance Department; drugs stolen or shipped to the wrong destinations, etc.
The problem is endemic and hospitals and health centres are blamed for not having drugs.
Patients are the ones who ultimately have to pay the price with their lives as the Government have taken for granted the ignorance of our people.
The public must realise that hospitals do not manufacture drugs and other essential consumables needed for their operations.
POMGH, like many any hospitals in PNG, gets it supply from the Health Department’s pharmaceutical supply branch though the Base Medical Store.
Hospitals only supplement drugs on emergency purposes through the internal revenue it generates from patients fees.
This revenue is inadequate to sustain services when drugs, consumables and medical equipment are very expensive from the local pharmacies and suppliers.
The public is quick to blame the management when things do not work or something is lacking.
They do not realise that hospitals are answerable or dependable on higher authorities for its operation and it is ridiculous and unfair to blame the hospitals’ managements.
For POMGH, the majority of issues have been on going for decades and have worsened because of population increase and with it, increasing demands.
The Health Department and other line departments, including DPM and Finance, are deaf to our cries when we seek manpower, funds for drugs, equipment, infrastructure, etc.
It is unfair to blame the hospital management when the fundamental problem and issues can only be addressed at the top and not at the hospital level.
When I first joined POMGH in 2003, we tried to institute management systems to improve the operations but it is the system that saps one’s stamina and bright ideas. In fact, it suppresses one’s motivation.
Much has been done and achieved.
It is sad people look at the negative side of things only and not the achievements.
One thing I have learnt as a manager is that when you are running an organisation that is not your private business, your hands are tied with regard to changes and developments.
We are not open to changes and it is further compounded by resources constraints, attitude of people, etc.
Having said that, I am proud of the little achievements we have brought to POMGH in the last six years of my terms as CEO.
If the politicians and people in authority think that they have not seen any developments in POMGH, then I can only say that we did what we could with our hands tied.
If they expected more, then they can look at the mirror.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Sam Vegogo and wish him all the best in this challenging job.
Mr Vegogo is not new to the job and he is an experienced hospital manager whom I know personally.
He must be given the due respect and support by all concerned.
Dr Alphonse D Tay
Former CEO, POMGH