Australia’s media begin to focus on PNG’s corruption & waste
The writers: Sil Bolkin – an essayist of substance & significance

It’s Friday night, & Port Moresby General has no bandages


THERE was something of a crisis at the Port Moresby General Hospital early last Friday night.

The weekend had arrived – not to mention the onset of the usual Friday night procession of smashes, clashes and crashes – and Dr Sam Yockopua, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine and 18-year public health veteran – was alarmed.

So alarmed, in fact, that he took to Facebook with a public appeal for help.

“SOS call for kind donations,” he wrote. “As at 6:35pm, after supervision of the pm shift work, at POM Gen Emergency Department; we have none of the following….”

And there followed a rendition of some of the most basic hospital necessities including face masks, gloves (“last box left!” wrote Dr Yockopua), alcohol swabs, urine bags, cervical collars, plasters, bandages, nebulizer cups, glucostrips, ECG/defib gel, ECG dots, 16. phenytoin iv, crepe bandages – and there was more.

“Friday night chaos is anticipated,” Dr Yockomua continued, “and we know we are not ready and will not give our best. We do, however, have solid manpower.

“Inbox me or simply drop by at PMGH ED and offer anything you can. Help save lives. God bless you.”

This is more dire than "praise the lord and pass the ammunition". It’s more like “go to the medicine drawer and bring me what you’ve got”.

Facebook reader Sally Proctor commented on Dr Yockomua’s cry for help: “The national referral hospital shouldn't have to rely on donations. This is unacceptable. Where is the health minister and his secretary?”

Good sentiments and a pertinent question.

And corruption fighting lawyer Sam Koim, who drew my attention to this dreadful predicament, commented simply, “Frightening!”

It’s an outrage. You can only hope that such total dereliction of duty by the responsible politicians and bureaucrats led to no avoidable deaths.

But, whatever the outcome in human lives, it must have resulted in a desperately turbulent and trying weekend at PMGH emergency for staff and their patients.


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Arthur Williams


In 1981 I was the Purchasing Manager for Pasuwe Ltd. It meant my buying for most of the company’s 30 stores that ranged from two in Moresby, two reasonable sized rural stores at Balimo, Kiunga then a crowd of smaller ones decreasing in size to my smallest at Arufe in Western province whose only claim to fame was a USA plane crash landing there on Sept 2nd 1943.

One Saturday Kigl our Shipping Manager was busy trying to complete loading one of Steamships coastal boats with a mixed cargo to our base at Kawito over hundred miles up the Aramia River in the Lower Fly River area.

At that time we would begin paying K100 per hour for our charter from the moment the first goods were slung into the hold of the ship until we had emptied it on its return from the West with passengers and lots of sacsac mostly for the Gogodala relatives and others exiled in Moresby.

Stevedores worldwide were almost a law unto themselves and I or Kigl would deal with them using kid-gloves to ensure they didn’t blow the stop-work whistle especially on a Saturday evening. If we hadn’t finished loading it could mean paying K3400 extra to close the hatches from Saturday evening around 9 or 10 o’clock until Monday.

Mid-morning Kigl had called into my house to borrow my small single cab covered pickup which he would use to supervise his trucks at the wharf and our warehouse in Gordons. I was repainting a bedroom in our duplex home on Henao Drive. Just before 10 I heard a truck pull up at the gate and went out to see who it was. A frightened worker jumped down and rapidly told me, “Kigl has been in a crash.”

“Is he alive? I enquired.

“Yes boss - but het bilongem bagerap tumas!”

I found out he was already at Moresby General Hospital where my truck driver quickly took me. I sent the workers back to the warehouse and the for them to go home after informing our General Manger who lived in Hohola.

Then I walked into the utter chaos of a Saturday evening at POMGH. There were people hobbling around balancing themselves with a piece of wood; men and women were nursing broken limbs or their heads; some with bloody wounds mostly covered with homemade bandages; others were lying on laplaps on the floor some looked comatose while others were talking drunkenly as they watched over them. All were waiting for a doctor or nurse to attend to their injuries.

The noise was unbelievable as people from many tribes spoke their home languages loudly so as to be heard over the general melee that was topped off with crying or screaming kids some of whom appeared injured too.

I found my man lying on a stretcher his face covered in blood, eyes bruised and closed. He had already been in hospital for an hour by now and nobody had even come to inspect him. It must have been almost an hour or more before he was wheeled away to the operating theatre.

I sat down appalled at the bedlam of the place; thinking it looked a scene from some Hollywood African guerrilla war movie.

Eventually my semi-conscious colleague was brought back out; his head swathed in bandages.

The nurse with him said, “You can take him home now.”
I was astonished, “What happened in operating theatre then?” I asked.

“Oh the doctor took out about 30 bits of glass from his face but there are still tiny bits still in it. So he’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry nurse but I really need a doctor to sign him out for me and my company before I could take him home.”
She looked annoyed at this fussy whiteman but promised to go and find one of the obviously busy doctors.

After some time one did come back with her and I asked him to sign my workmate out. Sanity reined and he replied he was unable to do that and advised Kigl must be kept in overnight. He turned tail and walked off and the nurse was about to do the same.

Lindsay F Bond

IF calamity occurs in Australia, and a delegated ministry is thought to be slow on the job, let alone negligent, the elected head and senior administrative employees would most likely appear, at least to salvage positions if not to salve.

IF calamity be in Australia, as appallingly as reported of Port Moresby Hospital, premiers and prime ministers would hasten to scene, to be seen in attendance via ALL available news reporting organisations.

If... but absence of provision and prime of ministers, sucks out words and lives.

Francis Nii

This is a very scary signal. There was power cut because the government did not pay its bills that ran into millions. Now basic clinical things let alone drugs are running out because the government cannot replenish them. If this are signals of the much predicted cash flow problem, we are heading for disaster. The next signal will be none payment of second term tuition free fee subsidy or defferring of the national elections so look out for it. It is really a frightening state of affairs. May God save PNG!

Daniel Kumbon

Don't talk about Port Moresby General Hospital.

Talk about villagers living at Yumbis/Karekare, Penale, Yengis, Lapalama, Las Wert, Keman, Maramuni in Enga province and other such outlying rural areas in the rest of PNG with no medical facilities at all.

People quietly die in these rural comunities when the papers splash front page stories of big people dying or getting treatment in some of the best hospitals in the world.

Pauil Oates

Will Self asks how the Health Secretary survives. The reason is simple. He survives because the Health Minister survives because the PNG government led by Peter O'Neill survives because the PNG people allow it to.

Scandal after scandal is perpetrated on the PNG people yet no one knows what to do to stop the rot.

What would happen if a group of like minded and determined PNG people laid a legally watertight complaint that had to be investigated and ensured the investigations were finalised BEFORE the next election?

What would happen if those responsible were actually held accountable?

Yes, I know, I forgot that can't happen under the current regime can it?

Or can it? Where are the PNG legal fraternity who are prepared to stand up for PNG? Even if the results of any investigation were not available in time for the election at least those responsible might at least have to be investigated.

Arnold Mundua

Thank God, I am fortunate to live near the country's best managed hospital, the Sir Joseph Nombri Kundiawa General Hospital. No wonder I see many patients around the country (even Port Moresby) either referred or chose to come to SJKGH.

Arthur Williams

Meanwhile the peasants are preparing circuses for the greatest PM in PNG history who slipped away to an all expenses paid hospital in Singapore because he had let the nation's medical institutions rot,

Disgusted that too soon we forget what he did to this nation
As it really is not la la land,

John K Kamasua

Friday nights are probably worse but it's a nightmare every day!

The emergency section is always in a crisis and those responsible, and with the chequebook, are not putting the money where their mouths are.

Will Self

How the hell does the Health Secretary keep his position? Borneo Pharmaceuticals scandal, Cancer specialist attempted deportation, nurses and doctors strikes, the appalling state of Laloki Psychiatric Hospital, failed rural health posts and so on and so the seven volumes of the PAC reports to see just how bad it was and still is - yet the Secretary survives.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Ah; no Keith, we cannot halt the grand Infrastructure projects for the sake of bandaids.
Truly, a calamitous state of affairs.

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