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PNG hospital runs out of food -

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PNG hospital runs out of food

The World Today - Thursday, 8 May , 2008 12:28:00

Reporter: Steve Marshall

ELEANOR HALL: To the health crisis in our nearest neighbour now.

And Papua New Guinea's largest hospital, Port Moresby General, has run low on drugs and beds
before. But now it's run out of food.

PNG Correspondent Steve Marshall reports that this means that in many cases, children are going for
days without milk and other necessities.

STEVE MARSHALL: It's dinnertime at Port Moresby General Hospital, but in this children's ward
there's no food to be found.

The young patients here are down to one meal a day, if they're lucky.

I found father of two Alex Goi (phonetic) and his wife perched on a bed with their two children.

ALEX GOI: What I have seen here is when the food is finished, rice is finished, I'm sorry for them
because they have empty plate.

STEVE MARSHALL: Alex Goi's little girl has been here for three months. The food shortage isn't
helping her prognosis.

Many children here share her plight according to Ward Nurse Martha Semin.

MARTHA SEMIN: They don't go home quickly. And the TB patients they'll have to have some drugs in
full stomach, they'll have to have feed before they can have the drugs, but most of them seem to
get drugs on an empty stomach.

STEVE MARSHALL: I mean, do children die because they're malnourished?

MARTHA SEMIN: No. They don't die of malnutrition, but they die of other associated illnesses. TB,
diarrhoea... they are malnourished so they're prone to get other illnesses as well.

STEVE MARSHALL: The staff have been forced to ration powdered milk and other vital supplies.

The longer the patients stay here, the less room for others, and the less food to go around.

I joined Health Minister Sasa Zibe on his visit to the children's ward.

SAS ZIBE: Port Moresby General Hospital has reached the point of rupture and it's just pretending
that it is now providing a service. There is a need to build a separate hospital that can get
pressure out from Port Moresby General Hospital.

STEVE MARSHALL: It's a similar situation in hospitals across the country. PNG might continue to
reap rewards from oil, gas and mining, but the health sector budget is gravely ill. Health Minister
Sasa Zibe again.

SASA ZIBE: The government cannot give me money and say that this is right. Unless we're to come up
with a plan that is... everybody's comfortable with. I think that that is what it needs. So as I
said, we're enjoying the windfall here, there is a need to spend more money on the hospitals

STEVE MARSHALL: Despite the hundreds of millions of aid dollars spent here, many children still die
from preventable illnesses. PNG's child mortality rate is at least 14 times higher than that of
Australia. Now Port Moresby's largest hospital can't even afford to give food to those who need it

The Health Minister says he will work on a strategy to improve the situation. In the mean time,
young ones here are relying on donations from the public like powdered milk, tinned fish and corned

At Port Moresby General Hospital, this is Steve Marshall for The World Today.