Third COVID-19 surge worst: Port Moresby General Hospital CEO Dr Molumi


Papua New Guinea’s biggest hospital, which recorded four Covid-19 deaths in one week, and more than 80 patients admitted, will scale down services from today, Port Moresby General Hospital chief executive officer says.

Dr Paki Molumi warned of a third surge in Covid-19 cases which he said was worse than the second one.

“This is the worst we have experienced,” he said.

“We will scale down non-essential services for two weeks (starting today 06 October) to re-organise our staff and to contain the situation.

“All hospital clinical services and related services will be scaled down. Staff will be deployed to critical areas such as the Emergency Department, Medical Ward 3B, Isolation Ward and the Taurama Aquatic Centre.”

He told The National that on Monday, there were 50 Covid-19 patients admitted, adding on to the 30 admitted in the previous 24 hours.

He said by 5pm Tuesday, 88 Covid-19 patients were admitted at the hospital and he expected the number to increase.

Dr Molumi said 30 hospital workers had also tested positive for the Covid-19 with mild symptoms and were placed in isolation.

He said the hospital was going through the third wave of the Covid-19 surge which was worse than the last surge.

Measures put in place to help the hospital manage the surge include:

*Pathology services – only urgent tests such as cross-match and blood transfusion services will be maintained;

* All elective surgeries are on hold indefinitely except for emergency surgeries;

*All consultation will be closed except any special arrangement to review cases;

*TB Clinics will be open as per schedule with strict compliance of the Covid-19 protocol;

*Only emergency and life threatening conditions will be attended to at the Emergency Department;

*Only emergency and in-patient radiology services will be maintained;

*Other essential specialty services such as dental, physiotherapy, social works, Heduru Clinic, oncology, antenatal and general support services to remain open but to maintain Covid-19 protocol;

*Dispensing of prescription medications will be maintained with limited capacity including reducing operating hours from Monday to Friday.

Dr Molumi said all staff were expected to come to work as per the rosters including call-out to critical areas within the hospital during this period.

He urged hospital workers to get vaccinated at the vaccination sites in the hospital and other sites in the city.
The vaccination site at the hospital is for workers, patients and members of the public set up by the National Capital District Health Authority and National Control Centre.

Dr Molumi again stressed that vaccination was important in addressing this surge.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister James Marape has again urged the people, especially health workers, to get vaccinated, and for health authorities to establish a better communication system between the provinces and Waigani.

“While vaccine remains optional, I am encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Coronavirus vaccines save lives,” he said.

“There is a relative increase in (the Covid-19) vaccination, but it is still a tiny margin. We still have a long way to go before we reach the target many countries have already reached for their people.”

He appealed to all health workers to be vaccinated because of the “high-risk” they face in their workplace.
He sounded the warning as he ordered a major step-up in vaccination implementation, and a better communication channel between the Health Department and provincial health authorities.

He wants to see a stronger performance by all stakeholders to contain the fast-spreading Coronavirus (Covid-19) and its deadlier Delta variant.

“We must dramatically increase our roll-out of the vaccines around the country. There is a lot that we have done well since the pandemic struck us in early 2020, but there is still a lot more that we need to do,” he said.

“This war against Covid-19 will not be won by departments in Waigani issuing orders to people (in the provinces) but through a stronger working partnership between stakeholders.

“Our authorities and health workers are on the battlefront. They know what must be done to prevent more people from getting sick and dying, and what is needed to increase vaccination.”

He mooted the idea of providing insurance for frontline health care workers – doctors, nurses and those directly involved in handling the pandemic response.

In Morobe, to use the Morobe Health Authority will use a new tuberculosis ward as Covid-19 ward to manage patients better, says chief executive officer Dr Kipas Binga.

It is currently treating Covid-19 patients at the Sir Ignatius Kilage stadium indoor complex – a five-minute drive from the Angau Memorial Hospital.

Dr Binga said the current set-up was hard to manage.

“We have made those decisions so it becomes easier for things such as oxygen access, and food,” he said.
The new TB ward is at the hospital built as part of a redevelopment project funded by Australia.

“Luckily, we have that facility there,” he said.

“Now with the surge and given our earlier experience, we feel it will be better managed on the hospital campus. All hospitals around the country have theirs on campus.”

Dr Binga said the 12 TB patients in the ward would be moved to another ward.

“We’ve got two wards and we’re trying to free one up,” he said.

The medical ward and TB ward have 26 beds.

“At least we’ve got 26 beds that are linked to oxygen and easier to manage,” he said.

“We’re still keeping the stadium set-up in case there’s a spillover from the surge.”

He said manpower remained an issue.

“As we go along, we see our capacity in terms of financial strength and (is there is any) manpower in Lae we can recruit,” he said.

Dr Binga said there were enough supply for the geneXpert and antibody testing.

He also said lockdowns in certain institutions in the province were entirely up to the management for their safety. The authority and the provincial government had nothing to do with it.

In Goroka, Covid-19 surge in Eastern Highlands, has been described by the national emergency medical team which arrived on Monday as “extremely serious”.

Team leader Dr Garry Nou told The National from Goroka that the solution was in vaccination.

“(People) must get vaccinated,” he said.

“This is so important.”

The PNG Sports Foundation confirmed five Delta variant cases at Goroka’s National Sports Institute (NSI) which has been closed since Friday.

Dr Nou warned the people of Eastern Highlands to stop moving around unnecessarily and to follow all the public health safety measures such as the wearing of masks, physical distancing and regular hand-washing.

The eight-member team from Port Moresby he is in charge of in Goroka comprises five nurses, a specialist nurse on infection prevention control, and a doctor.

“They are all very experienced in isolation care in Port Moresby. They will provide interventional support and help in ward care.”

He thanked the World Health Organisation, Health Department, National Control Centre and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for supporting the team.

“We also thank chief executive officer Dr Paki Molumi of the Port Moresby General Hospital, Dr Steven Yennie of the National Capital District Health Authority and Matt Cannon of St John Ambulance for allowing their staff to be on the team.

Dr Nou said teams of emergency medical workers from overseas were in the country to help in the pandemic response.