PNG’s capital Port Moresby reaches crisis point over covid surge

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Port Moresby General Hospital in crisis
Port Moresby General Hospital in crisis ... overloaded and three children with covid-19 died three days ago. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s biggest referral hospital has reached a crisis point as the covid-19 pandemic positivity rate surged drastically to 85 percent yesterday.

Port Moresby General Hospital chief executive officer Dr Paki Molumi in the National Capital District (NCD) has revealed that three children with covid-19 had died three days ago.

He also said yesterday that the hospital had recorded the highest deaths on arrival — 50 on Monday, 40 on Tuesday and 30 on Wednesday.

This was a sign that the hospital was reaching a crisis point with services teetering on collapse unless they are immediately given more support.

“PMGH now we have reached a crisis point. The first surge we were able to manage, the second surge we were able to manage but this third surge which is the delta variant is very aggressive, and we are reaching a very critical term,” he said.

“Aggressive means in the first surge we saw a lot of older people getting infected, and so with the second surge.

“This one, we are getting very young people — we lost three kids three days ago. This surge is not discriminating with anyone, its affecting everybody.”

Another dilemma
The hospital is also faced with another dilemma — this time over dead bodies that urgently require money and paper work to be completed to pave the way for their burial.

The deceased include a staggering 300-plus dead bodies with many of them covid-19 related cases and the hospital does not know where it will put the new bodies that are coming out from its covid-19 wards.

Dr Molumi also said 94 of their medical staff were infected with the virus, 52 medical and 42 nursing staff of the hospital had been infected by the virus. They must be given days off for home isolation, further reducing manpower.

“We are faced with a crisis where cobvid patients are presenting in large numbers with shortness of breath requiring manpower to assist,” he said.

“The few staff left are overworked and fatigued and we need to recruit more staff urgently.

“Our staff are facing unprecedented mental health challenges, as we witness death tolls never seen in the history of our hospital.”

“Our AusMat triage tent in front of the PMGH is full, emergency department is full, the isolation ward is full, the covid ward is full and all other beds in different sections, including the maternity wing allocated to covid are also full with covid-19 patients.

‘Dying before reaching hospital’
“People are dying without reaching the hospital. Our mortuary recorded 50 deaths on admission on Monday, 40 deaths on admission on Tuesday and 30 deaths on admission today, with more expected tonight.

“We have never recorded such a high number of deaths on admission.

“The morgue is filled, with bodies packed on top of one another. Right now, 300 plus bodies are at the morgue.

“Three more refrigerated containers have been installed to store dead bodies, but this is not enough. Some bodies were left outside for days because we just don’t have space in the morgue.

“A mass burial of 200 bodies is being planned this week to create more space. The bodies are both covid positive and unclaimed non-covid,” he said.

“So we as the city’s hospital serving over a million population in the national capital district, Central Province as well as parts of Gulf — we are reaching a crisis point.

Matt Cannon, chief executive of St John Ambulance, also said the service was in crisis.

“I think it’s fair to say that the ambulance service at this stage is in a crisis level,” he said.

“Challenges they need to cater for increasing number of patients… our ambulance service is also seeing a stretch!”

Gorethy Kenneth is a senior PNG Post-Courier journalist.

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