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April 23, 2021
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POMGEN addresses death of asthmatic patient

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The Port Moresby General Hospital has released a statement addressing the death of an asthmatic patient at its emergency department.

The statement read:

The number of COVID-19 cases especially in the nation’s capital has risen exponentially and is posing a lot of challenges for the Port Moresby General Hospital.

Some of these challenges include logistics, bedspace and most of all, shortage of manpower because many hospital staff who have been infected with the virus and are isolated, so far 120 of them of which majority are from the Emergency Department .

In January atone, we reported zero positive cases in a total of 123 swabs collected on symptomatic patients.

In February 2021, we noticed a sharp rise in the positivity rate of COVID-19 cases. Of 380 swabs collected on symptomatic patients, 10 per cent were positive or in actual figures, the total number is 39.

Now, the current trend is a 70 per cent infection rate in positive cases, that is, out of every 10 patients who are symptomatic for an acute respiratory illness (ARI) and are being tested for COVID; 7 are found to be positive. One section of Emergency is always full with COVID-19 patients awaiting transfer to COVID Isolation ward. The COVID Isolation ward with a capacity of 18 beds is full to capacity, hence a normal ward is currently taking on the load. In total over 40 COVID patients are admitted at PMGH. With the closure of Gerehu Hospital, the number of patients presenting to the Emergency Department is increasing. We are in a situation where more patients both COVID and Non COVID are presenting to be attended to by a limited and over stressed staff.

In light of a recent Facebook post that has gone viral, the hospital can confirm that the patient is an asthmatic patient who unfortunately succumbed whilst receiving her treatment. She is one of our retired staff who frequents the Emergency Department to receive nebulizer to relieve her asthmatic symptoms.

There are strict measures that have to be implemented at PMGH in order to prevent transmission of COVI D-19 to staff and fellow patients whilst taking care of COVID patients, one of which includes reduction of aerosol-generating procedures (such as nebulisation of medication for asthmatic patients such as this patient).ln a confined space like the Emergency Department triage, these would have posed a greater risk to staff and other patients. Hence, to protect both staff and fellow patients the nebulisation service for asthmatics was temporarily brought to the open air given the sudden increase in patient numbers both COVID and Non COVID. Usually, nurses prepare the medication and the patient holds the nebulizer. Given the fact that this is a regular patient, one of our retired health worker and knows the process of nebulization, management is investigating what actually happened leading to her death.

As the number of COVID cases increase in the coming weeks, the limited staff at PMGH will not be able to take care of everyone and hence we expect more of this incidents of unexpected deaths inside and outside of the Emergency Department and the hospital carparks.

I urge the Public to see this post on FB of the true situation at PMGH where you expect too much by a overstressed and limited health workforce. The best the Public can do to prevent PMGH and the entire PNG Health system from collapsing is to reduce the transmission of COVID1-19. PLEASE HARIM TOK and follow the “NUIPLA PASIN” wear face mask, sanitize your hand with alcohol and social distancing. Please stay home if you can, no unnecessary gathering.

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