by Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby
A Papua New Guinean specialist heart surgeon says the government should take ownership of the treatment and care of heart patients.
Dr Noah Tapaua, says for over 20 years heart patients care, particularly specialist surgery has been largely dependent on charity.
Dr Noah Tapaua is now the only Papua New Guinean, specialist heart surgeon at the Port Moresby General Hospital, PNG’s largest referral hospital.
He says the number of heart patients in the country is overwhelming and it needs urgent government support.
“Our government has a lot of priorities but I believe that this is one of its priorities,” Dr Tapaua said.
Dr Tapaua says currently the treatment and care for the majority of heart patients in the country is heavily dependent on charity.
Much of the funding goes towards specialist training and specific equipment and devices that are needed before and during surgeries.
“Many of the consumables are very expensive, and there is no doubt that that’s what makes cardiac surgery very expensive,” he explains.
One such device is a pacemaker, and currently there are two patients at Port Moresby General Hospital that need that device.
“These are patients who have a very low pulse rate…and it can be very dangerous, the heart can stop anytime. One is a villager who cannot afford anything, one is a priest. Both of them are not formally employed and they are both staying in settlements.
The burden of financing this device, which cost around K10,000 each for the two patients, now fall on the patients and their families.
“We are getting the device from Australia, these are programs that are not budgeted for but our people need it.”
Currently, the lifeline for the majority of patients needing heart surgeries is the annual Operation Open Heart which is largely a charity event.
It is believed that funds raised through this event enables heart patients throughout the country to be screened and selected for life saving surgery.
Through government funding, Port Moresby general hospital receives K100,000, which can only cover provincial visits to screen the heart patients, who are then referred for further screening and possible surgery when the Operation Open Heart team from Australia arrive here in Port Moresby.
Dr Tapaua says “at least something around K500,000 to run this program as an ongoing program throughout the year” will form a “basis” that they can work with.
For the two patients that need pacemakers, Dr Tapaua has helped them and their family, by negotiating with the Australian supplier for a discount which they have given, however they still need more funding.
“We are appealing for the public who can support them, at least two sponsors.”