Hospitals in Australia’s near-neighbour of Papua New Guinea are said to be struggling to cope with a big increase in Covid-19 cases, while the rising number of pandemic-related deaths are also pushing mortuaries to the limits of their capacity.
According to local and international media reports, quoting National Department of Health statistics, there have been almost 22,000 Covid cases and nearly 250 deaths in the island nation since the first Covid outbreak began.
The number of weekly infections are now at around 600, although there are fears that this figure could actually be far greater because of the low testing rate.
Papua New Guinea’s health services have long been plagued by infrastructure problems, as well as shortages of drugs and adequately trained medical personnel.
Local stadium is makeshift hospital
“In Lae, the country’s second largest city, Angau general hospital is admitting an average of five new cases a day and saw 19 deaths in September alone. The city’s only public hospital, serving a population of 76,255, it has just 320 beds and a further 150 temporary beds,” the London-based Guardian newspaper reported this week.
“Health authorities have been forced to turn the town’s stadium into a makeshift hospital and morgue.”
The newspaper quotes Dr Alex Peawi, head of the hospital’s emergency department, as saying: “The emergency department is seeing only life-threatening emergency cases, while all other cases are referred to local clinics. People travelling in from Goroka [the capital of the neighbouring Eastern Highlands Province] are a big worry as people are not observing ‘new-normal’ measures. We are advising people to get vaccinated.”
In the Eastern Highlands, Covid-19 cases have reportedly overwhelmed Goroka provincial hospital.
Dr Kapiro Kendaura, the province’s director of curative health services, described the situation as critical, with cases increasing every day.
Hospital is on the brink of closure
In the Western Highlands province, the country’s most densely populated region, Mount Hagen general hospital is also on the brink of closure due to an influx of Covid-19 cases and an acute shortage of government funding, the local Post Courier reported.
Apart from its medical infrastructure problems, Papua New Guinea has, along with many other Pacific island nations, been struggling with vaccine misinformation spread on social media.
In May, Prime Minister James Marape publicly had the first jab of an emergency vaccine consignment sent from Australia in an effort to dispel the public’s fears.
At the time, he said that if he died people didn’t have to take the vaccine. But if he didn’t die, he hoped others would follow suit and agree to receive their vaccinations.