For a population of nearly 6 million people, PNG has no national oncologist. There is also no proper facility or specialist services for cancer treatment in Papua New Guinea. Once a diagnosis is made, it is more less a death sentence. Those with money are going to Australia for either chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
A friend of mine, Dr Ian Garbett, from UK spent some time working in the highlands of PNG as a missionary doctor for about 5 years. He was based at the Tinsly Baptist Hospital in the Western Highlands. He recognised the need for cancer treatment facilities in PNG and he has decided to set up a charity organisation to source funds to help cancer diagnostic and treatment facilities for the highlands region. The name of the charity organisation is “Transformation Papua New Guinea”.
I was reading through the document regarding the operations of the charity organisation and one particular part of their operations caught my attention. They plan to set up telepathology services to make cancer diagnosis faster and better. I have been writing a fair bit about telemedicine/telehealth/telepathology in some of my previous posts so this part was bit exciting to read. I hope to be part of the telepathology work (if Ian lets me..LOL..)
It is unfortunate that NGOs and other charity organisations have to do these sort thing for PNG when it is clearly the role of the government to provide these very essential services. The call for a radiotherapy unit in one of the major hospitals in PNG has fallen on deaf ears.
Recently, the Prime Minister of PNG announced that he will allocate K50 million kina (US$16.6 million) for upgrading the roads in Lae. And one of his ministers further announced that the government has nearly K1.6 billion kina (USD$ 0.5 billion) surplus which they will use to improve services. These announcements were made during their election campaign speeches. By the way, the national elections are in June this year. No mention of improving health services and infrastructure has been mentioned. I just hope some of that money can be siphoned to improve health infrastructure in PNG.
Cancer treatment fascilities can be set up in PNG. I just think it is the political will to make it happen that is lacking, “To put money where your mouth is”, so to speak.