By ANDREW ALPHONSE 19/10/2010
THERE is no doctor at the Tari district hospital in the Southern Highlands province.
Hundreds of sick people who flock in each day from the far-flung Hela regions of Komo-Margarima, Tari-Pori and Koroba-Lake Kopiago are now served by a veteran health extension officer (HEO) Michael Ekalia and a handful of nurses at the hospital.
Thanks to the establishment of international medical organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, injuries, wounds, accidents including lifesaving emergency surgeries are carried out on Hela patients free of charge.
However, people with common ailments, diseases and health problems seeking medical assistance and examinations at the hospital cannot be attended to by a qualified doctor. Following the sudden departure of acting chief executive officer Dr Bravy Koensong in June, the hospital that serves more than 300,000 people in the Hela region has no doctor to attend to their medical and health problems.
Dr Koensong who was posted to Tari in mid August 2008, worked hard to improve the services at the hospital but left after threats by locals who alleged that he had mismanaged its affairs. Dr Koensong has since then moved to Mendi where he is serving at the provincial health office. Provincial health adviser Thomas Anda appointed senior nursing officer Tobias Hapolo to take charge of the hospital administration during a visit to Tari in July. Mr Anda could not be contacted for comments yesterday.
Nurses at the hospital said yesterday that they sometimes played the part of qualified doctors and physicians to serve people coming with common tropical sicknesses and other medical problems. The nurses also said without a doctor to manage the affairs of the hospital, nearly half of the 46 nursing staff at the hospital had walked off from their duties and are roaming around the streets of Port Moresby, Mendi, Mt Hagen and other main centres while on full pay.
“It is unfair when some of us are committed to our job in serving the sick and dying in Tari while our other colleagues are absent from duties and turn up shamelessly at ATMs on paydays, getting paid for doing virtually nothing".
“There is no proper control and discipline mechanism at the provincial health office in Mendi so that is why staff just walk off duties at will,” a nurse who requested anonymity said.
The nurses also complained that despite their services to the hospital, they have being overlooked for increased benefits for nurses like overtime allowances, special awards and other benefits which their colleagues in the country in other hospitals and health centres are enjoying. They called on health secretary Dr Clement Malau to look into their welfare.