IN last weekend's Australian press, journalist Mike Steketee wrote an interesting article about Papua New Guinea entitled ‘In Popondetta, life and death are dealt with in a tin shed’.
We lived in Popondetta in the 1980s and my wife Marian gave birth to three of our children, including undiagnosed twins, at Popondetta General Hospital between 1980 and 1982.
The article made it seem as if nothing has changed in the facilities and conditions in over 30 years. Having said that, though, the care and nursing support Marian received in her short stay with our three children was very good.
We were very fortunate that, at the time of the twins’ birth, there was a Solomon Island doctor, Cyril Pitikaka, seconded to Popondetta Hospital from Port Moresby.
He had undertaken post-graduate training at Sydney Adventist Hospital. The twin girls were six weeks premature but very healthy and, with Marian’s nursing and midwifery experience, she was able to take the babies home and care for them there.
Fortunately the hospital was just across the road from Popondetta Provincial High School where I was headmaster.
The midwifery staff and Dr Cyril were always on hand to give Marian advice, as 10 days after birth, one of the babies was struggling and had to be tube fed for a number of weeks following advice from Dr Cyril.
Popondetta Hospital has always maintained a special place in our hearts and it is very disturbing and sad to think the staff has to work under such conditions.
Consequently we both feel a little helpless in what we can do to help in some way. Perhaps PNG Attitude readers may have some ideas. I have emailed the Oro Development Project with offers of assistance but am awaiting a response.
Our son Christopher was the first expatriate baby to be born at the general hospital back in 1980. The twins Penny and Katy were by all accounts the first expatriate twins to be born there.
The twins - Penny, an intensive care nurse and Katy ,a primary school teacher, celebrated their thirty-second birthday last week. They share along with us a special attachment to Popondetta and Papua New Guinea.