Vital to have reliable healthcare

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday 21st September 2012

ON Jan 8 this year, our business editor Yehiura Hriehwazi died.
An outstanding journalist, Yehi, as he was affectionately called by his colleagues, had escaped the clutches of the Bougainville Revolution Army on a number of occasions and reported on that conflict in outstanding fashion.
He lived and worked late nights in Port Moresby and Lae, arguably two of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Through his work, he made many enemies. Yet, he survived all of that danger.
When he was finally taken from us in the early hours of that fateful Sunday early this year, he surrendered his life on a bed in PNG’s biggest hospital, with doctors and nurses trying to revive his heart when he was already brain-dead.
He spent most of Saturday with his family trying to find expert help. He did not find it. And, so, he returned home and tried to rest but he could not. So Yehi and his family rushed to the hospital, only to wait without any proper or urgent medical attention until he was already far gone.
Another colleague of ours, our photographer Auri Eva’s funeral is this weekend.
He, too, laid on bed 10 in ward 3B at the Port Moresby General Hospital for just a fortnight when he was discharged. The doctor’s reason for discharging Auri was that there were no medicines to treat him.
Let us be clear here – he was not discharged because no medicines would cure his condition. He was being discharged because there were NO MEDICINES available.
Auri was in tremendous pain. He was on morphine and Colixyl until the hospital apparently ran out of them and he took his pain home on Aug 8.
He stayed home and endured goodness knows what agony for a further five weeks until he died at 4pm last Thursday, Sept 13.
The biggest hospital in Papua New Guinea appeared to have run out of painkillers.
On the internet, we now have discovered what treatments and how different types of remedies and medicines, including painkillers, are available for people suffering pancreatic cancer.
Alas, they were not available for our colleague and friend and goodness knows how many other fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, husbands and wives throughout this country.
This is no joke. We do not care what kind of grandstanding the politician may make today but he will be treated overseas, he knows that, with our tax money to boot. It is the simple taxpaying, hardworking Papua New Guinean that has suffered and will continue to suffer.
Many more reading this will also be taken prematurely for the same outrageous reason that there is lack of proper health care and medicines.
Yes, there is a case to be made about lifestyles and work habits but we must have good reliable healthcare. That is a common denominator in all societies.
In a country so rich, in a country so blessed, this state of affairs is a travesty. It is tragic. It is neglect by successive governments that is criminal.
The people of this country have protested and marched for every other issue but lack of medicine.
Time we took to the streets to bring home the fact that people are dying unnecessarily out there from lack of medicine while billions are being squandered.
The parting insult is this: K300 million meant for health this year has been discovered unused lurking in some obsolete government account and now the government proposes to redirect it to bolster the budget deficit.
No, it will not bring back Auri or Yehi or the many thousands of others who have died this year. But, why was it not spent in the first place?
And why, oh why,  transfer it elsewhere when the need is greatest in health still?