Medical charity aborted

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The National, Wednesday July 20th, 2016

AN Australia-based medical charity has been forced to cancel a planned trip to Papua New Guinea this week due to a doctors’ strike and safety concerns.
Open Heart International (OHI) sends a team of volunteers to Port Moresby twice a year to carry out cardiac operations and to help local doctors and nurses maintain a cardiac surgery unit.
OHI general manager Michael Were told Pacific Beat the cancellation would affect about 15 children scheduled for heart operations.
However, the decision was made in part due to safety concerns for the volunteers.
“We’ve been in constant dialogue with our colleagues at Port Moresby General Hospital,” he said.
PNG’s National Security Advisory Council last week discussed a threat by anti-government forces to shut down essential services to force Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s resignation.
The threat is led by a coalition of so-called “concerned citizens”, including pilots, aviation workers, lawyers and senior union members.
A no confidence motion against O’Neill will be voted in Parliament on Friday.
On Monday, doctors joined the civil disobedience action, calling for O’Neill to face police questions over long-standing corruption allegations.
National Doctors Association secretary Sam Yockopua said doctors had agreed to scale down their operations and attend only to medical emergencies. “Normal consultation will be stopped.
“They will only have to deal with emergencies,” Yockopua told Pacific Beat on Monday.
“So, if the surgeons are, for example, on call or on duty, they will only do quick ward rounds and see unstable patients.”
In response, the Government has vowed to use its emergency powers – including calling out police and soldiers to help maintain law and order in Port Moresby – to halt a national strike.
Were said it was disappointing to have to cancel the regular visit due to the elective care strike and potential unrest.
However, the 50-strong team from OHI was considering to reschedule for September.
“A lot of work has been involved for our volunteers, who’ve made commitments with their families and also got time off from their hospitals and their employment,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, the safety of our team members is really, really important to us.”
OHI established its cardiac programme with PNG in 1993 when there was no local counterpart.
It said PNG nationals were now suitably qualified and trained in cardiac surgery and anaesthesia, making the Port Moresby General Hospital unit largely self-sufficient.