DAISY TANIOVA PAWA
A FATHER and son medical team is stranded in Germany, awaiting clearance by PNG immigration authorities to travel to the site of the cholera outbreak in Wasu, Morobe province.
The Evangelical Lutheran church had requested Dr Theo Winkler and his son, Dr Arne Winkler, to assist the Etep Rural Hospital at Wasu when suspicions of cholera were first raised on July 25.
Their visa and short-term work permit applications were lodged with the PNG Immigration Services and the Department of Labour and Employment on Aug 21, four days before the outbreak was made public in the media.
The Labour Department immediately issued a six-month work permit.
But an officer from PNG Immigration Services told the Lutheran church head office late on Friday that the authority for visa issuance “had not been sent because the fax has no toner”.
An authorisation would need to be sent to the PNG Embassy official in charge of Germany in Brussels, Belgium, the Immigration officer said.
The officer also said the officer in charge of the visa section “had knocked off for the day” at 3pm.
The senior Dr Winkler is a surgeon and has been working on short stints since 1980 at the Braun Hospital in Finschhafen. He was, for a time in the late 1980s and early 90s, the medical superintendent.
His son, a cardiologist who has experience working with cholera patients, has accompanied his father on working holidays to Finschhafen.
They have both taken six months leave from their practice to help at this time.
Meanwhile, there have been no reports of more deaths from cholera in Lae over the weekend.
But the number of cases has reached 122.
Of these, 77 have been hospitalised while the rest were sent home after receiving treatment.
The death toll still stands at six, according to information presented at the provincial outbreak task force meeting held at the malaria provincial health office yesterday.
The task force has been meeting everyday since last week to get the latest information on the progress of the fight against influenza, dysentery and cholera in the Morobe province and other affected provinces.
The team is headed by Dr Victor Golpak.
The meeting covers coordination, surveillance, logistics, environmental health and communication and dissemination of information.
Meanwhile, at the treatment centre for cholera patients in Lae, 25 more beds were converted for patients and three more tents will be erected, to increase the total capacity to 87.
An 8,000l water tank was donated to Angau Memorial Hospital by the Rotary Club of Huon Gulf, and a washing machine was also donated by Brian Bell and Company.
An ambulance from St John had been promised to Angau for transportation of cholera patients, Angau CEO Dr Polapoi Chalau said.