Port Moresby emergency ward chaos as medics refuse untested patients

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POM emergency ward
Port Moresby General Hospital emergency ward ... lives reportedly at risk due to covid spike fears. Image: EMTV News

By Adelaide Sirox Kari in Port Moresby

As Papua New Guinea’s capital continues to record an increase in covid-19 cases, with seven new positive cases recorded on Friday, another crisis is looming at the National Referral Hospital.

Port Moresby General Hospital Emergency Ward (PomGen) is currently under immense stress as covid-19 tests take place there.

The ward is in chaos as patients with life threatening injuries and medical conditions wait hours to be treated.

READ MORE: PNG imposes nine new covid control measures as cases climb

Eye witness reports have confirmed that doctors and nurses are refusing to attend to emergency cases until the individual is first tested for covid-19.

The emergency theatre that deals with urgent cases has been closed due to fears of covid-19 among doctors and nurses.

EMTV has been told that for some emergency cases this is leading to death.

Appendix cases that went to PomGen this week were told that the theatre was closed and the staff on duty were not sure whether the surgeon would be able to attend to the cases.

Appendix burst
One patient’s appendix eventually burst while waiting to be served.

It raises a question on what exactly is happening at the emergency ward at PomGen?

In a leaked letter addressed to Port Moresby General chief executive and management, nurses at the Emergency Department refused to work, stating that covid-19 protocols in place were not effective.

The nurses said that initial procedures of patience testing at the front triage before being moved to the Rita Flynn isolation clinic or the emergency ward for further treatment were not carried out.

The nurses of the Emergency Department called on the management to fumigate the whole department, establish proper facilities for covid-19 patients, send all nursing staff home for an indefinite period, and a response by management.

In a social media post, PomGen replied to the nurses’ leaked document stating that the hospital chief executive officer, Dr Paki Molumi and acting Director Medical Services Dr Kone Sobi met with the Emergency Department doctors and nurses at 7.30am today to address the challenges after two of their staff members tested positive for covid-19 while treating their sick patients who were also positive.

Dr Molumi called on the ED staff not to be swayed away by covid-19 as the normal non-covid emergencies would kill more patients.

‘Save more lives’
“Our challenge is to continue to attend to all normal emergencies to save more lives at the same time ensure we and our patients are safe from covid-19,” he said.

EMTV understands that Emergency Department staff are not in full PPE equipment. Only those carrying out covid-19 testing are in full PPE attire.

There is uncertainty about knowing who has covid-19 and this can lead to nurses and doctors being fully exposed to the virus. Other patients in the emergency ward can also be exposed.

Current procedures in place at Port Moresby General Hospital emergency ward is costing lives, as fear of covid-19 is causing more deaths than the virus itself in Port Moresby and in the country.

EMTV News has requested a response from Deputy Pandemic Controller Dr Paison Dakulala on the situation at Port Moresby General Hospital and was still awaiting a response when this article was published.

Dr Paison Dakulala
Deputy Pandemic Controller Dr Paison Dakulala … an appeal to take covid-19 health measures seriously. Image: EMTV News

In an earlier story, EMTV News reports that Dr Dakulala has appealed to Papua New Guineans to take health measures against covid-19 seriously as PNG’s cases increased to 39.

Dr Dakulala made this call yesterday while announcing seven new cases of covid-19 confirmed within the previous 24 hours in the National Capital District.

Four health workers positive
Out of the seven, four are health workers.

“We cannot afford to play around. The cases are being reported every day now. The new cases were confirmed at midday today and they are now all at the Rita Flynn isolation facility,” said Dr Dakulala.

Of the seven new cases, four are considered mild while only one had difficulties in breathing so was put on oxygen but is now improving.

All are Papua New Guineans except for an expatriate employed with a government organisation.

Dr Dakulala said one of the cases is a staff person with the National Department of Health. The NDoH headquarters at Aopi Building was going through a decontamination process.

The building will be open on Wednesday.

“Rita Flynn has a 72-bed capacity. When we reach the capacity, we may have to consider other possibilities, including home quarantine,’’ said Dr Dakulala.

Monitored cases mild
He said the majority of the 24 cases currently being monitored at Rita Flynn facility were mild cases.

Dr Dakulala said that quarantine and contact tracing measures had been initiated and contacts of positive cases were being advised to be home quarantined and not to move around for 14 days.

They have been advised to call the hotline 1800200 should they experience any symptoms of covid-19 such as fevers or body aches or flu.

“If they are feeling unwell they only have to call the hotline and we will send response teams to their residence to assist. Please comply with all covid-19 health protocols. Stay at home. Do not move around.

“Help us stop the spread,” added Dr Dakulala.

As of yesterday, PNG had tested a total of 9885 people for covid-19 since the response began in January.

Out of this figure, 39 had tested positive and more new cases are expected as tests are being scaled up not just in NCD, but throughout the country.

Furthermore, there are currently 535 tests pending results – 300 of these samples are at a laboratory in Brisbane and the other 235 are in Singapore.

The Pacific Media Centre republishes selected EMTV News stories with permission.

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