Port Moresby General hospital on the verge of collapse


Papua New Guinea’s Port Moresby General Hospital(PMGH) is reaching a crisis point, with services teetering on collapse unless they are immediately given more support.

“We urgently need additional resources to combat the current surge, and we also need the public to follow the Nuipla Pasin to help break the transmission of the virus,” PMGH said in a statement.

The situation at Port Moresby General Hospital is as follows:

*the AUSTMAT triage tent is full, Emergency Department is full, the Isolation Ward is full, the COVID Ward is full and all other beds in different sections including the Maternity wing allocated to COVID are also full with Covid-19 patients.

*Fifty-two medical and forty-two nursing staff of the hospital have been infected by the virus and must be given days off for home isolation, further reducing manpower.

“We are faced with a crisis where COVID patients are presenting in large numbers with shortness of breath requiring manpower to assist. The few staff left are overworked and fatigued and we need to recruit more staff urgently. Our staff are facing unprecedented mental health challenges, as we witness death tolls never seen in the history of our hospital,” it said.

PMGH Medical staff are being requested by other PHAs, and this is placing a lot of pressure on existing capacity at the hospital. PMGH is supporting Provinces with specialised staff as part of the emergency medical team travelling around the country. This week an naesthetist, a Obstetrics and Gynaecologist with a midwife will be travelling to Goroka Hospital, which is also in desperate need.

Rapid diagnostic tests for COVID on visitors and other patients at the hospital, after confirmation with Gene Xpert testing, are showing a 15 percent positivity rate. Many of these are random visitors, some completely asymptomatic, but able to spread the virus to the vulnerable, including patients in the hospital being treated for other illnesses. What this tells us is, people are moving around without knowing they have the virus and spreading it resulting in widespread community transmission.

“People are dying without reaching the hospital. Our mortuary recorded 50 deaths on admission on Monday, 40 deaths on admission on Tuesday and 30 deaths on admission today, with more expected tonight. We have never recorded such a high number of deaths on admission.

“The morgue is filled, with bodies packed on top of one another. Right now, 300 plus bodies are at the morgue. Three more refrigerated containers have been installed to store dead bodies, but this is not enough. Some bodies were left outside for days because we just don’t have space in the morgue.

“A mass burial of 200 bodies is being planned this week to create more space. The bodies are both COVID positive and unclaimed non-COVID.

Our hospital cannot continue to operate under this pressure. The virus doesn’t move, people do,” PMGH said in a statement.

“We need an immediate intervention to preserve the fragile health system here in the NCD. Our hospital is a central part of that health system and we are under resourced and understaffed in the middle of an aggressive third wave. As all our limited resources are focused on COVID patients, we are struggling to attend to the everyday healthcare needs of our community.

“We urge the people of NCD to play their part. Stay home, wear masks properly covering your nose and mouth when in public, and isolate if you have a sore throat and flu like symptoms. If you are eligible to be vaccinated, please vaccinate. Unlike our previous two waves, we are witnessing too many senseless deaths of young Papua New Guineans in their prime, with many more unvaccinated being admitted with severe illness. Without a stronger enforcement of the Nuipla Pasin measures and a large proportion of the population been vaccinated, this institution faces imminent collapse.

“We encourage the public to follow the NIUPLA PASIN and most importantly receive the COVID vaccine to avoid hospitalisation. Help us to help you,” PMGH said.