Specialist doctors present proposal

Two specialist doctors, Dr Noah Tapaua and Dr Wesong Boko, say the new catheterisation laboratory (cath-lab) at the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) is the beginning of a new era in health care in the country.

They presented a proposal to the Minister for National Planning, Richard Maru, on August 21st for phase 2 of the development of cardiac services at PMGH and the country as a whole. The proposal also covered in detail the steps that need to be put in place to fully establish the cardiac services. 

“This achievement can only be described as a dream come true for our people who are unable to afford such service abroad and many have succumbed due to the non-availability of such service in the public hospital in PNG,” Dr Tapaua said.

“We believed that in opening the new facility that we were witnessing the beginning of a new era for Port Moresby General Hospital in health care. We now have a complete new floor on the Walterstrong wing of the hospital that will enable us to have new ways of working and new approaches to caring for our patients. The change in the way we practice medicine is inevitable when disease pattern changes.”

According to the proposal, the initiative is aimed at addressing the increase in the number of non-communicable diseases (NCD) with their complications including angina, heart attack, stroke, complete heart block, vascular related diseases and cancer.

“Congenital heart disease (CHD) patients is another group we will continue to deal with as long as we have a growing population. The necessity to avoid travelling abroad for first class health and medical care that majority of our people cannot afford is a way forward to taking back PNG.

  • The first IHD case in PNG was reported in 1964
  • The annual mortality rate per 100,000 people from cardiovascular disease in PNG has increased by 20.2 percent since 1990, average of 0.9 percent per year
  • Coronary artery disease is now among the top most common cause of admissions to the medical wards 

The Operation Open Heart program has been going on in PNG for 25 years since 1993 and up to this year, a total of 1,169 Papua New Guineans have been treated with a mortality rate of less than 2 percent.

“To address the growing burden of heart-related diseases we have in the country, such facility is a must so majority of our people can be treated locally. This achievement is a stepping stone for other new development projects the PMGH board and the management is working on to make PMGH a full level 7 hospital required to provide all specialist health services for our people and the government must be acknowledged.”

PNG’s National Health plan 2010-2030 aims for “A happy and prosperous nation that ensures affordable, accessible, equitable and quality health services for all citizens”.

Dr Tapaua said: “This is what we all endeavour to provide and with our current government, through the office of our health minister, and minister for national planning and monitoring, we believe we will achieve this.”

With the cath-lab, the intervention cardiologist will be able to do;

  • Diagnostic cardiac catheterisation (visualize arteries, heart chambers, heart valves, study complex congenital heart anomalies)
  • Biopsy
  • Atherectomy
  • Balloon angioplasty (PTCA)
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)
  • Septal closure for congenital heart defects
  • Thrombectomy
  • Balloon Valvuloplasty
  • PPM

To complete the full cardiac service in the country, including other specialist services, PNG now needs to have a new operating theatre complex built at the hospital. The current four operating theatres cannot now support the specialist surgical services the like PMGH with 1,200 beds.

For surgery, the following specialties can be found at PMGH;

  • Neurosurgery
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Plastic & reconstructive surgery
  • Otorhinolaringology (ENT)
  • Ophthalmology (Eye)
  • Orolmaxillofacio (OMF) surgery
  • Paediatric Surgery
  • Orthopaedic surgery
  • Urology
  • Upper GIT/Hepato-Billiary surgery

The new operating theatre complex will comprise of nine new operating suites to cater for all these specialties that is long overdue.

“Along with this, we need new specialists’ positions created to run the services and retain staff to fully develop these specialties. The new specialist positions must be created for doctors, nurses and allied health workers,” Dr Boko said.

“We are now asking the National Department of Health, the Port Moresby General Hospital and Department of Personnel Management to seriously look into this and address the issue so our specialist health services can be fully functional.”

(From left: Intervention cardiologist Dr Wesong Boko, Minister for National Planning Richard Maru and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Noah Tapaua)

Press release