SARAH ELKS | The Australian
THE CONTROVERSIAL SHUTDOWN of Queensland-run tuberculosis clinics on the Torres Strait has been backed by new research that claims the centres made the situation "much worse".
Emma McBryde, the head of epidemiology at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service, conducted a recent risk analysis of the disease in Papua New Guinea's western province for the PNG government and found the clinics' treatment regime would "inevitably" lead to increased drug resistance in their PNG national patients.
But the specialist Queensland doctors who ran the clinics on Saibai and Boigu islands -- which were axed in June after a funding dispute between the state and federal governments -- dispute the findings and say Dr McBryde did not ask them for crucial data.
Since the shutdown, AusAID has poured more than $8m into upgrading the standard of medical services in the Western Province, including at the main Daru hospital, which had previously struggled to access clean water, reliable drugs and sanitation.
Dr McBryde's executive summary, sent from PNG's secretary of health Pascoe Kase to the Australian government this month, said the Australian doctors' concern for their patients was "very understandable".
"(The clinics) also played a key role in alerting Australia to the problem of TB in the Western Province," she wrote.
Dr McBryde's executive summary has been trumpeted by everyone from the PNG and Australian governments, to Queensland health minister Lawrence Springborg in a recent parliamentary estimates committee, despite her report not yet being finished.
The handover of the clinics' 93 patients will be discussed by Australian and PNG officials in Cairns tomorrow.