Situation dire, PNG’s three biggest hospitals are fighting an uphill battle against COVID-19


Papua New Guinea’s three biggest hospitals are fighting an uphill battle against COVID -19, with one reporting two to three deaths per day.

The Port Moresby General Hospital, Mount Hagen General Hospital and the Goroka Base Hospital –– the latter two based in the Highlands region –– all reported that no one is safe in Papua New Guinea from COVID-19.

“Everybody is not safe anymore. We have to get everyone in the country vaccinated and this is important.

It won’t work to have half the population vaccinated, we have to get everyone and I mean, everyone vaccinated,” Dr Joseph Apa, chief executive officer of the Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority said when he raised the alarm.

A colleague in the Port Moresby General Hospital added: “We have not seen any new cases that were vaccinated.

All new cases we have here are non-vaccinated cases. It may be too early to say this but the signs are looking good.

“We have to get the message out to everyone to get vaccinated or else, we are definitely sitting on a time bomb.”

The Port Moresby General Hospital doctor also said they have recorded a COVID-19 death Sunday.

Mt Hagen General Hospital, already starved of operational funds, reported two COVID-19 deaths last week, and reported new walk-in cases occurring daily.

The Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority acting chief executive officer, Jane Holden said the situation is dire indeed.

“Two patients died and two more are critically ill.

Although we cannot get the results for the whole genome sequencing, we must assume we are dealing with the delta variant, given the rapid increase in numbers and severity of their illness.

“We only have enough COVID-19 funds to support another two weeks work,” said Holden.

The health administrators are adamant that vaccination is the only way for Papua New Guineans to save themselves and relieve the stress being placed on all health establishments throughout the country.

“I had to fly in nine new oxygen cylinders from Lae at a cost of more than K20,000(US$5,700). Our 60-bed COVID-19 wards are full. We are seeing more than 15 new cases daily,” Dr Apa said from Goroka.

Port Moresby General Hospital has only five ventilators and these were all used by those in critical condition.

In a statement last week, the country’s National Control Centre said it needed K14 million(US$3.9 million) to pay for oxygen for the hotspots and those in high risk provinces.

Deputy pandemic controller Dr Daoni Esorom said this was the figure the National Control Centre has proposed to the government because most hospitals including those in the high risk provinces, Western, West Sepik and Eastern Highlands and others in hotspot areas, have run out of oxygen because of heavy use.

“Human life is precious and we have to save lives.

Currently hospitals are being stretched to limits and when this happens at the main referral hospitals, it also affects all health centres and aid posts in the districts,” Dr Apa said.

Dr Apa was not wrong.

The Kainantu rural hospital, which has no isolation ward to treat COVID-19 cases separately, has closed all outpatient services to allow staff to focus attention on the escalating COVID-19 numbers coming in daily.

Kainantu hospital acting CEO Dr Nene said the situation is unprecedented and that his hospital was dealing with four full blown cases.

“Currently we are dealing with four full blown COVID-19 patients at the hospital and we have three confirmed deaths already.

The hospital serves more than 30,000 people in Kainantu as well as those from the nearby districts of Obura-Wonenara,Okapa,Henganofi and Ramu in Madang Province.

Their call for nationwide vaccinations comes only a few days after Police Commissioner and National Pandemic Controller David Manning strongly urged everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Vaccination is the key to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and it will have a broader impact on PNG’s current health status with regards to COVID-19 immunity and how we interface with other countries,” Manning said.