“THROWING more money at this is not going to fix the problem.”
That was the response of Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch to the news yesterday that Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr had announced another $20 million for tuberculosis treatment in PNG.
Mr Entsch has today again questioned why the government is not working hand in hand with the leaders of the most-affected villages along the Western Province coastline closest to Australia.
“PNG is already the largest recipient of Australian aid monies but I don’t believe we are getting sufficient outcomes for that investment,” Mr Entsch said.
“It is typical of this government that it gauges its achievements by how much money it can throw at the problem. But if this money continues to go through the same channels, nothing will change.
“I can assure you that from a Coalition perspective, there are policy solutions being worked on and we will certainly be making significant changes.”
Mr Entsch said that while Mr Carr was talking about curing 85 per cent of cases diagnosed each year, people needed to be aware that the current detection rate is around 15 per cent.
“As far as upgrading Mabaduan goes, that’s fine, but to get to their target of detecting 80 per cent of cases then they need to have a presence in each of the 13 villages along that coastline,” he said.
“And in regards to injecting another $10 million into the Daru hospital, this is just a band aid – they need to concede that the hospital is only fit for demolition. The government should be putting pressure on the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program fund (PNGSDP) to build a brand-new hospital with Australian mentorship and supervision.
“It would be a welcome relief and a massive benefit for the people of the Western Province to have a proper hospital rather than having that money used on infrastructure projects for the mining companies.”
Mr Entsch said another issue was in relation to infection control measures, with recent confirmation that the sixth case of Extensively Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB) was a TB nurse at Daru hospital.
The AusAID-funded refurbished temporary isolation ward at Daru hospital – Mr Entsch found no restrictions on entering and no breathing masks offered.
“It is alarming you have to ask, what is being done to ensure that the health professionals treating this extremely infectious disease are being protected?”
Mr Entsch said that despite meeting with Minister Carr’s senior staff and AusAID officials, when he “pleaded for their support”, he had not heard anything further.
“Since then we’ve had the Four Corners investigation into antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’, national media coverage through the Courier Mail newspaper and heard more and more about this crisis,” Mr Entsch said.
“The Minister is well aware of the situation and the solution that is available through the Treaty Village leaders. But if the delivery of this new funding is exactly the same, then at the end of the day we’re not going to see any different outcomes at all.”