The doctor and the politician

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday, June 9th 2011

SIR Michael Thomas Somare and Dr Mathew Fallan are incomparable.
The one is a politician extraordinaire of vast national and international fame, the other a dental doctor of no particular prominence outside the circle of his colleagues, his family, friends and patients.
But remove the cloak of fame and glory and some striking similarities do exist.
Both men are from East Sepik.
They both have their roots in Karau, Angoram district.
They both have served the people for a lengthy period of time; the politician for 43 years and the doctor for 30 years.
And, they both today require medical treatment, coincidentally in the very same up-market Singapore Raffles Hospital.
The politician is already at the Raffles and has been there for nearly two months.
He has been a patient there on and off for some time for checks on his health, generally, but his most recent trip has been for operations on his heart.
He is still in intensive care.
The doctor has also been to Singapore before where surgical operations removed cancerous legions in his intestines. In the process, it became necessary to separate his small intestines from his large intestines.
Last November, he had an opening made in his abdomen to provide an artificial anus for passing of waste.
He wants to return later this month to have his intestines put back together but, alas, he cannot.
He requires K80,000 which he does not now have. The previous operation had exhausted his finances.
And so, this week, he put out a public appeal for donations to make it possible for him to have this operation.
We carried his appeal in our pages yesterday.
Fallan is making no secret of how he has come to acquire rectal cancer with a possible metastasis liver disease.
He blames the way of life he has led over the years.
He ate red meat excessively, he says, and smoked a lot and drank beer almost daily.
Hard living that has culminated in a life-threatening situation but who are we to pronounce judgment upon Fallan. We take the rebuke of the man without sin: “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.”
No, it is not Fallan’s way of life that attracts comment, although many lessons can be learnt from it.
It is the immense and glaring disparity and unfairness of the situation he faces that begs comment.
Of two public servants, both sons of Karau, both of whom have distinguished themselves in the service of their country for more than three decades – one is able to be served at the hospital of his choice; the other is not able to because he just cannot.
And, why ever not? That is the question that begs asking.
We would want the best hospital care in the world for our prime minister, let there be no mistake about that.
But, so too the family of Fallan.
They, too, would want the same for their father, brother, son and husband.
And, Fallan would be able to afford the surgery he needs if only there were facilities and the expertise onshore, not abroad.
That PNG does not have these facilities and expertise on-shore, despite all the billions of kina that pour into this country, is truly tragic.
That PNG does not have specialist hospitals with the state-of-the-art equipment and staffed by professional specialists is because our law and policy makers have neglected this simple need over the years.
Yes, it must be said: Sir Michael himself is as responsible for this sorry state of affairs as are all the others who have followed him into parliament and cabinet.
The leaders can go abroad for treatment if and when the inclination takes them and we, the people, would happily support them and pray for them to get well and even allow them to get treated on public funds if only our medical needs could be attended to in PNG.
If the facilities were here, we are certain that it would be cheaper to fly experts into the country, including volunteers, to attend to ailments and illnesses that needed their attention.
And, that is what makes the case of Fallan, and all like him, exceedingly sad.
He and the rest of us are victims of our own poor choice of leaders over the years who have failed us and themselves.