Prominent PNG doctor rejects super hospital plan | Pacific Beat

Prominent PNG doctor rejects super hospital plan

Prominent PNG doctor rejects super hospital plan

Updated 15 February 2012, 13:08 AEDT

A prominent doctor in Papua New Guinea says the government's plan to build a "super hospital" will jeapordise the country's already fragile health system.

Professor Glen Mola has publicly rubbished the proposal for the Pacific Medical Centre as an exorbitant waste of money.

He told a forum in Port Moresby the hospital will not benefit PNG's rural masses or its urban poor.

He says, instead, it will drain money and talent from the public health system to pay for a hospital only the wealthy can afford.

Presenter: PNG correspondent Liam Fox

PNG doctor, Professor Glen Mola; PNG Health Department's Acting Secretary, Dr Paison Dakulala

FOX: Anyone who's read the letters to the editor in PNG's newspapers this year will know Professor Glen Mola's views on the Pacific Medical Centre or PMC. He's been a vocal critic of Health Minister Sasa Zibe's plan to build a new private hospital outside the capital Port Moresby. The head of reproductive health, obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of PNG fleshed out his criticism at a forum at the National Research Institute.

PROFESSOR MOLA: All of us are struggling a bit, including the Department of Health to just understand where this is coming from this project, and how it arose and why it is being pushed. There is a lot of mystery about it.

FOX: The mystery concerns the origins of the PMC. Professor Mola says it appears the idea came out of meetings between well-intentioned American doctors and PNG's Ambassador to the United States. He says one of the doctors had a brother who was a property developer. Instead of going through the normal health planning process the idea was taken directly to politicians and then approved by the National Executive Council.

PROFESSOR MOLA: It's a politician's project, it's not really come out of the overall health planing process, that the national health plan that we have just signed off on starting next year took us several years in all sorts of expert support to I think I hope get right. This is not part of that process.

FOX: As it currently stands the first phase of the PMC involves the construction of a 150-bed, state-of-the-art hospital. The Health Minister has said it will be a not-for-profit, private institution run by humanitarian-minded foreign doctors. Earlier this year he committed 20-million kina for initial works. He said the rest of the 500-million kina needed to build the hospital would come from international donors such as the Clinton Foundation and AusAID. But Professor Mola says that's absolute rubbish. He says the Clinton Foundation has told him it won't be getting involved and a recent meeting of donors told the Minister they won't be touching it either.

PROFESSOR MOLA: The development partners at their meeting with the minister told him very plainly I believe the New Zealand High Commissioner was the person nominated to be the spokesperson, to tell him, like stand up and tell the minister none of the development partners are supporting this project. It's ridiculous, it's counterproductive, it's not useful.

FOX: Professor Mola fears the rejection by donors means the Minister will now divert funds from the health budget to finance his pet project.

PROFESSOR MOLA: We spend 281 million in that is the projections for this year on the hospital sector, the operating cost of the hospital sector, the whole hospital sector, and all your provincial hospitals, but now you are going to have to run the PMC out of the pot and are we going to let the PMC fall over because we have not got enough money to run it. No, thank you.

FOX: Not only will it drain funds and talent from the public health system but Professor Mola says the Health Minister's other central claim, that the PMC will benefit the poor, is ridiculous.

PROFESSOR MOLA: If we do build this PMC, the most likely use will turn out to be stabilising rich people, mainly expatriates, things like heart attacks and accidents and where you need emergency care to make you fit and then they're going to get SOS Medivac and they are going to be in Brisbane or Los Angeles, after the acute phase of their problem.

FOX: The Health Department's Acting Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala also addressed the forum. He says the department has no choice but to carry out the Minister's orders but he did indicate health bureaucrats are concerned about the PMC.

DR DAKULALA: Where is the funding coming from and how is going to affect the National Health Plan budget. We wanted to understand that part of it.

FOX: Dr Dakulala says the latest national health plan will be released shortly. Papua New Guineans should then be able to see if funds will be diverted to fund the Pacific Medical Centre. The National Research Institute says it will invite supporters of the PMC to air their views at another forum in the near future.

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