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By Lulu Mark and Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

A medical academic has warned the Papua New Guinea government to immediately bring in more than 680,000 doses of covid-19 vaccines because urban health services will collapse if the spike in cases continues.

Professor Glen Mola, who correctly predicted last July that the country should brace for a spike in cases in the ensuing months, said the priority was to “slow the epidemic” as much as possible.

He is head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of PNG’s School of Medicine and Health Science, and the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH).

“We hope that we can slow the epidemic as much as possible,” Professor Mola said yesterday.

“But if there are too many sick people with respiratory symptoms presenting on any given day, then clearly they cannot all be just allowed to pile into the emergency department of the PMGH and the outpatients of the urban clinics.

“If there are just too many for the nurses and doctors to deal with, what are they to do?

“I want to see the vaccine here as soon as possible because the earlier we get the vaccine, the more lives (especially of older people and those with co-morbidities) will be saved.

‘Take notice of health advice’
“Everyone should start taking notice of health advice because by ignoring it, you are risking your own life and the lives of those around you – especially your seniors.”

Professor Mola told The National that the 684,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine were urgently needed in the country to protect the health system.

He said the number of doses mentioned would cover the front-line health workers and older people with co-morbidities. He suggested that some MPs might want to be in front of the queue as well to show “leadership”.

He said that with the spike, the lives of elderly citizens and those with co-morbidities were at a very high risk of succumbing to covid-19.

He called on young people to not wander around the entire day because their chances of picking up the virus and spreading it to older family members were high.

Meanwhile, the PMGH is prioritising its clinical services over the next two weeks due to the covid-19 spike.

Hospital chief executive officer Dr Paki Molumi said the action had to be taken because of the increasing number of workers testing positive.

“The main objective is to mobilise staff into areas greatly affected as a result of staff [being] quarantined and [in] isolation,” he said.

Action at a glance
Services to be affected include:

  • CONSULTATION clinic will be closed, with only urgent matters to be attended to;
  • ONLY emergency surgeries will be performed while elective surgeries put on hold;
  • EMERGENCIES with category 1-3 and referrals will be attended at the emergency department and children’s outpatient. People are advised to go to the nearest clinic and health facility in the city; and
  • GYNAECOLOGY clinic will be closed and bookings rescheduled.

The antenatal clinic, TB clinic, pharmacy, dental clinic, medical and imaging services will remain open but there will be certain limitations and strict control.

National Pandemic Response Controller David Manning said that a “lockdown was [still] an option”.

“Only after we make sure we take everything into consideration including what it will do to Port Moresby and the businesses,” he said.

“I expect all individuals, communities, businesses and organisations to adhere to the protocols.”

Asia Pacific Report publishes The National articles with permission.

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