By ERIC PIET
Laloki Public Psychiatric Hospital outside Port Moresby has released 100 patients and closed all its services to the public as staff members protest over an unresolved chronic water supply problem.
The hospital staff started a sit-in protest today following the expiry of a 14-day notice by the Department of Health to fix the water supply contamination problem.
The hospital did not have the resources to get Eda Ranu to connect water to the hospital to replace the water wells.
The staff decision, backed by the hospital management, to stop work comes after Hepatitis A, a waterborne faecal disease, broke out at the hospital six weeks ago.
The disease affected both staff and patients with laboratory tests confirming bacterial contamination of the two wells that had been used the past 19 years.
Since the outbreak of Hepatitis A on Feb 27, acute ward manager Sr Dianne Rambe said six patients and two staff members contracted the disease.
“The management had no choice but to release most of the 80 patients to contain the disease, not forgetting the high risk these psychiatric patients pose to the community.
“There is also sewage and faecal overflow in five of the wards caused by calcified or blocked pipes resulting in a pungent environment unfit for human habitat,” she said.
Since Feb 27, the hospital has released 97 patients with the last three expected to be released today.
Organising committee chairman Moses Pingina, who is also a social worker at the hospital, said due to the Department of Health’s ignorance on the chronic plight at the hospital after 19 years, “the staff have sought to take industrial action to demand the Government to replace wells with clean fresh water connection from Eda Ranu”.
“Our demand is simple. We want Eda Ranu water connection to replace the wells. We are not fighting for pay rise or better housing conditions, we are fighting against neglect and abuse of human rights at the hospital since 2000,” Pingina told The National yesterday.
He added: “We unsuccessfully raised the issue three times with the department without taking industrial action in 2012, 2014 and 2017. Nothing was done and we are now forced to take action.
“We will only return to work if we see a signed Memorandum of Agreement between the department and Eda Ranu to get the water supply connected. Our crisis management plan is to admit about 10 critically affected patients.”
Hospital acting director of medical services Dr Joyce Sonoling said the management supported of the staff (industrial) action “because of the neglect of human rights”.
The National made several attempts to get comments from both the Health Minister Sir Puka Temu and Secretary Pascoe Kase but were unsuccessful.
By ERIC PIET