ON the mid-day news on radio yesterday, the Radio Australia news said that there was a case of whooping cough in its countryside.
The report also said that emergency workers had already been placed on alert. It also went ahead to warn adults to be wary of the disease and alert authorities as soon as possible.
Medical authorities were already on stand-by to control it.
The suggestion here is that the response was quicker than the Papua New Guinea Health Department’s reaction (as opposed to response) to the outbreak of dysentery in Menyamya and cholera in Wasu.
The comparison that Australia is a developed country and can quickly implement emergency procedures is fallible.
Australia has a system in place to attend to such matters.
We do have such a system in place. But for some reason, we are not able to respond quickly to a situation.
Perhaps the Government and the authorities do not believe what they see in the press and on TV or radio.
The cholera outbreak in Wasu, Tewai-Siassi, was first reported to health authorities more than a month ago.
When the World Health Organisation heard about it, it quickly moved into the area. But the Government took its time on deciding what action to take.
In Menyamya, reports were being filed daily by a dedicated Government officer who had no means of communicating the reports to the authorities. It was by chance that while he was in a coffee mill trying to reach the authorities, a reporter from The National was there to check a business story on exports.
What Kome LLG manager Desmond Timiyaso told our reporter was heart shattering.
The report was duly filed for the next day’s edition.
The provincial health authorities in Lae understandably did not know of the situation.
But for want of official statistics and memoranda, a newspaper report should have been investigated by administrators and medical experts.
Similarly for cholera, a village councillor had raised the alarm with the same reporter.
Again the story was published. It is safe to presume that someone of some standing at Top Town or Hohola would have had the sensitivity to delve further.
It would be safe to also presume here that people just saw the reports and did nothing of it. Or in the best case scenario, they thought they should sleep over it.
Every single moment they dragged their feet, one more life was threatened with the spread of flu, dysentery or cholera.
In Menyamya alone, the population is more than 100,000.
To have a population of more than 3,000 affected is a disaster. That is 3% of the population.
In Wasu, perhaps in a population of about 3,000, more than 27 cases were admitted and at least four deaths reported. Confirmed statistics were placed under embargo.
What the media has been reporting was from the village leaders, and to some extent provincial authorities.
But what must be pointed out here is that it took a whole three weeks for the Government to respond to the situation. Is the Government insensitive?
It has failed to respond quickly to a grave situation.
We are glad for people like the Medicins Sans Frontieres and the mission health services.
Perhaps now the Government can think about speeding up the processing of work permits for the many European doctors and nurses that are applying for visas so that they can go into these rural areas and live with the people and work among them.
Right now, the people of Menyamya do not have any hospital or health centre by which to be admitted to.
Morobe deputy health adviser Micah Yawing was yesterday crying foul that he did not have a technical team and a plan.
The Menyamya hospital is in a decrepit state, severely lacking the most basic of amenities. It does not have a proper ward or a proper ablution block. Compounding that, there is no water.
The Wasu situation is the same. The health centre is rundown and there are no water facilities.
It appears there is no proper plan in place during a medical emergency. If there was a plan, or a template of a medical contingency in place, it would merely have been pulled out and then implemented.
Health Minister Sasa Zibe said “bloody useless” in reference to the primary health care system only two months ago.
He might want to check his department’s response plan to an emergency.