By ANDREW ALPHONSE in Tari
THE team of international doctors and technical staff operating at the Tari General Hospital in Southern Highlands province is quitting after continuous attacks by criminals on them, their patients and the hospital facilities.
The eight expatriate medical professionals – four doctors, two paramedics and two technical staff – of the international humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, have packed up and will leave for Port Moresby today.
MSF head of mission in PNG, Monique Nagelkerke, said yesterday that only the MSF international staff would be evacuated while the 15 local medical and support staff employed by MSF in Tari would continue to carry out minor surgeries.
Tari MSF project coordinator, Claire Chenot, said major surgeries which are done by specialist expatriates doctors and surgeons, would cease when they leave Tari.
Ms Chenot said MSF staff would love to live and work in Tari, where they feel their services were really needed.
However, she said they cannot continue to provide their service when they were continuously subjected to attacks, and their staff and patients feel unsafe.
Ms Chenot said after the expatriate staff leave, MSF would not tolerate any further attacks to their national staff.
She said that during this time, any more incidents of attacks on national MSF staff and patients in Tari would send a wrong signal to MSF to pack up and leave Tari forever.Ms Nagelkerke said she had a couple of meetings recently with Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru, provincial administrator William Powi and hospital CEO Dr Bravy Koensong about the security problems at the hospital.
She said she was told that they would look at improving the security at the hospital but to date, nothing had been done.
In Tari yesterday, hundreds of people including patients expressed their concerns over the ever increasing attacks on MSF staff and patients by drunkards under the cover of darkness at the hospital.
Tari mayor Ken Arawi pleaded with the MSF team to remain in Tari and continue to provide their much-needed medical services to the Hela population.
The MSF said in a statement that it had to evacuate all expatriate staff from Tari due to continued security concerns and failure by the authorities to effectively address threats against their staff.
“In the past few weeks, there have been repeated security incidents including threats to our staff that we cannot tolerate,” Ms Nagelkerke said.
“MSF staff must be safe to provide life-saving care and the authorities must do all they can to ensure a safe working environment for all staff at the Tari hospital.
“MSF can provide security management for its all premises but must rely upon the hospital administration to supervise its own security staff,” she said.
The statement said there had been 10 security incidents at the Tari hospital since the end of last month, including a drunken man on hospital grounds threatening MSF staff with weapons, and repeated burglaries.
MSF said security guards employed by Tari Hospital had been absent during the evenings.
MSF said that despite trying to assist in increasing security at the hospital, local police had been unavailable to respond in a timely manner due to lack of adequate resources.
“We have warned the authorities that we cannot accept the continued inaction about our security situation.
“We need trained guards and proper fences in order to continue working in Tari hospital.
“Medical staff cannot be expected to negotiate with drunkard who threaten the lives of our staff and our patients as we try to perform our duties,” Ms Chenot said.
In Tari hospital, MSF staff provide comprehensive emergency surgical services including outpatient, day stay, inpatient and operating theatre facilities as well as integrated medical and psychological care for survivors of sexual and family violence.
MSF started its operations in Tari in September last year.