Cancer Screening Is Key To Preventing Deaths From Cancer!

With so much being written in main stream media and discussions on social media on cancer treatment in PNG, I think the PNG public need to be informed and be made aware.

Cancer comes in many forms!

There are tissue cancers – mouth cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer etc. And there are blood cancers – the different leukemias, lymphomas etc. Screening, diagnosis and treatment therefore is not the same. One form of treatment therefore does not apply to all types of cancers.

Cancer generally has no cure!

Even in the best of centers in the World, late cancer when diagnosed has no cure. Patients may survive for 5 years or more on treatment but eventually they all lose the battle. That is the first thing PNG public need to know. This fact is hard to swallow but that is a fact based on current treatment modalities and research evidence available.

PNG has no cancer treatment equipment or drugs!

Forget the Lae Cancer treatment centre. Equipment is outdated. Need to be changed. Chemotherapy drugs are used in combinations, like a cocktail. The ones we are using are not the best and most times one or two drugs are always out of stock.

PNG has very limited cancer specialists!

This is public domain knowledge. Humans operate machines, machines don’t work by themselves.

Surgeons can not cure cancer on their own! Cancer treatment requires team of specialists in different aspects of cancer treatment.

PNG public have been led to believe that surgeons will cure you of cancer. Once operated upon and cancer removed, you are cured. FALSE! Don’t be fooled to believe that surgery is the way. It is not. Surgeons also need to advocate this fact and call for capacity building.

Screening is the key in preventing deaths. Early detection saves lives!

This is a proven medical fact backed up by medical evidence. Early detection saves lives! Screening is the key.

Public health interventions prevents most cancers long term!

Public health interventions such as life style changes, cancer hazards identification at work place (occupational health interventions) and appropriate laws to ensure industries in PNG conform to laws preventing the public from being exposed to cancer causing agents will reduce cancer numbers in the long term.


Posted in Health | Tagged ,

PNG Medical & Health Sciences University to be established!

I first wrote about a stand alone PNG National Medical University in November 2014. You can read the post here.

After 2 years, the PNG government has approved its establishment. Read about it here.

The concept has been around for some time and discussed in various meetings within the UPNG SMHS but never went beyond the meeting rooms. The proposal needed a sponsor to spear head its submission navigating the maze and labyrinth of PNG politics.

The National Doctors Association, spear-headed by its President, Dr James Naipao and team took up the challenge.

And now the first meeting has been held and the Department of Higher Education Science and Technology will oversee its establishment.

We are hoping this new university will improve the quality of health worker training in PNG – community health workers to specialist medical officers. It is also hoped that the new establishment will also attract and retain PNG medical graduates to take up academic posts.


Posted in Health, Uncategorized

Crowd funding campaign to support ePathPG: a telepathology cancer diagnosis in Papua New Guinea.

My friend Ian Garbett has initiated a crowd funding campaign to support ePathPG.

Visit the campaign site to donate.

Ian aims to raise £2000.


Posted in Health, Information communication technology, IT

PNG Health Workforce in Crisis: A Call to Action October 2011

The World Bank made a comprehensive report in 2011 regarding PNG’s health workforce and the need for action.

Five years on and nothing seemed to have been done. No action!

Below is a synopsis of that report: Source:

  • Papua New Guinea faces a health workforce supply crisis arising from:

(i)    the current severely constrained training system for new health workforce cadres;

(ii)    the rapid aging of the existing workforce – over half of the current health workforce will retire within a decade;

(iii)   the expanding demand for services over the next 10 to 20 years due to sustained increase of the population.

  • The National Headcount Survey in 2009 shows that the size of the health workforce financed by the public sector has grown from 10,791 in 1998 to 13,063 in 2009. Since 2004, however, the pace of growth has slowed down markedly. The number of nurses, for example, dropped from 3,980 in 2004 to 3,618 in 2009.
  • To respond to the health workforce crisis, the PNG government’s needs to deal with:

(i)    the immediate supply-side crisis (quantity);

(ii)    the qualitative side, including preservice and in-service training (especially for emergency obstetric care for existing staff);

(iii)   incentives to ensure staff are able to be deployed where needed, particularly in rural areas which is home to 80 percent of the population.

  • Armed with information of supply and demand, the report provides five scenarios to draw out the implications for each health cadre and for all service delivery staff, including affordability. The five scenarios vary from no change in existing supply capacity to four alternative scenarios with supply adjusted to meet the postulated demand.
  • The scenario most recommended envisages a new mix of direct service-delivery staff, which is not only affordable but also responds to the demand requirements for staff from the health system while leaving space in the recurrent health budget to boost quality. This scenario is driven by: (i) the growth in the resource envelope likely to be available for health and service-delivery staff; and (ii) the feasibility and speed with which preservice training can be ramped up to meet the demands of workforce attrition and the needs of a growing population.

Download full report png-health-work-force-in-crisis-call-to-action

There is discussion on hiring doctors from Cuba as well as sending PNG students to study medicine in Cuba, when UPNG Medical School is calling for more funding to revitalize aging infrastructure and build new ones to increase student intake and recruit more lecturers. Hiring doctors from Cuba (or sending PNG students to study medicine overseas) or anywhere else was not one of the recommendations in this report.

The proposed trip to Cuba (the second one, the first was when Sir Peter Barter was the Health Minister) appears to be another overseas trip with no foreseeable tangible benefit to the long term solutions of addressing health workforce in PNG (and waste of taxpayers’ money).


Posted in Uncategorized

Shortage of Pathologists in Papua New Guinea Contributing to Long Turn-Around-Time for Cancer Diagnosis

I was invited by PNG Air this week for the Pinktober Cancer Awareness information session.

PNG Air, one of the major third level airlines in PNG organised the event to allow their employees to be informed about cancer as a disease as well as challenges in PNG and what they can do access cancer prevention services currently offered in Port Moresby.

I gave an overview of what cancer is and focused on the two major cancers affecting women in PNG – breast and cervical cancer. Over 90% of the attendees were female employees. It would have been good to have more men in there as well. But I am hoping for another session to talk about common cancers affecting men in PNG. I think this area is a neglected area.

The session was organised by Sr Dorish Palangat and Team from the Health, Environment and Safety department – an all female team! Hats off to you ladies and job well done! Congratulations.

The session ended with a Q&A session and topped it off with morning tea.


Photo of me with the organizers. And Thank you ladies.

And in the news. Click on the links below to see as reported by NBC PNG.


Next, we hope to have a session information on men’s cancer.

Posted in Health, Medical Training

ePathPG: A Telepathology Initiative to Overcome Shortage of Pathologists in PNG & Access To Specialists Globally!

What started for me as a passion in photography and work using a microscope as a trainee pathologist has given birth to “ePathPG”.

Telepathology is an emerging field in pathology and is only going to grow with advances in the kind of technology used. Telepathology has the potential to close geographical gaps, access to specialists globally and offer diagnostic service to countries like PNG still struggling to produce adequate number of specialist doctors to serve the ever growing population. I first wrote about it here in 2007 on this blog. Other articles are here, here,  also here. Some more articles here,  and here. My articles were also referenced by an online magazine “Hospital and Health Care Management”. 

ePathPG is a digital image management system that a we have developed. We originally meant to use the “Path” to mean Pathology but I think “Pathway” also makes sense. Because ePathPG has applications in other areas of telemedicine including teleradiology, dermatology, cytology and general practice where a digital image is needed to make a diagnosis.

Version 1.0 of ePathPG is now live online and we are doing a validation trial. We are using an Olympus BX41 digital microscope to capture the images from the glass slides but the cost of purchasing such a system would be expensive making our project unsaleable nationally. So we are also exploring the option of capturing the images using smartphones with smartphone optics adapter. The second option is much cheaper, there is very good 3G and 4G mobile coverage in PNG making our project scale-able!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword or Bullet!

Following the aftermath of what transpired between protesting UPNG Students and PNG Police, the international community has condemned the shooting of students.

There is also overwhelming support in PNG for the students as evidenced by postings on other social media outlets. Bruce Horick, who is a former UPNG student, after reading in the news of what happened, he put pen on paper and wrote this poem. The poem was published online by PNGLoop.

I Fight For You Too by Bruce Horick.

I fight for you too

My brother in blue

Cold metal in your hand

For your future too I stand

I bleed for you too

Friend in combat shoes

That our kids may grow strong

And joy will be their song

I die for you too

Comrade in sky hue

As you aim death towards me

I’m fighting to set you free

I mourn for you too

My wantok trutru

You follow orders from above

Mine’s from patriotic love

I plead for you too

Brother cop, yes you

Our leaders have misled us

And stepped us into the dust

Would you stand with me too?

My blood in navy blue

Reach out and hold my hand

And let us take back our land

Posted in Uncategorized