By Patrick Levo
Serious concerns have been expressed about the ‘modus operandi’ of the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby.
Public anger was raised against the private hospital after yet another avoidable death caused allegedly by the hospital’s uncompromising policy of “cash before treatment”.
In an email widely circulated, and on the social networking sites on the internet, angry Papua New Guineans and expatriates railed against PIH after the sad and unfortunate death of a 10-year-old child who was taken to the hospital on January 3 but was left unattended by medical staff and died because the mother did not have enough money to pay up front.
NauFM’s radio reporter Belinda Kora reported the hospital’s CEO was not available for comment but a spokesman said the incident was being investigated.
In an email from the United Kingdom where he is attending a health workshop, PNG Health Minister Jamie Maxtone-Graham said he was very concerned at hearing of the death.
Calling such behaviour a crime, the minister said:
“It is a very serious matter that needs urgent investigation.
“In my view, all doctors are duty bound (under the hippocratic oath they have all sworn to uphold) to save lives of all those who are in need, especially those who are in an emergency situation, regardless of whether they have money or not.
“If doctors at PIH have failed their hippocratic oath then they should be ashamed of themselves, they should go against their hospital policy and save a life, they shouldn’t be afraid to uphold their hippocratic oath.
“It is morally and ethically wrong for a doctor to stand by and watch a patient die before him or her, simply because the patient don’t have money, this in my view is a crime against society.”
Mr Maxtone-Graham said there is presently no law in place to enforce the hippocratic oath but he will work to change that.
“I will have to bring new legislation to ensure that in any emergency - life and death situation, all doctors in PNG will be required to assist that person in need of their services,” he said.
Expatriate former doctor Joshita Amai, who worked at the hospital from 2004-06 and later resigned and successfully sued the hospital owners in court told of harrowing cases of “extortion”, death caused by administration of wrong drugs, and patients left to die because their relations just did not have enough money to pay for their treatment.
Another former doctor called the practice ‘unethical’ and said the hospital was driven by the desire to make money that it went against international accepted medical practice.
Under the name Dr Lina, the former medic also claimed another doctor employed by PIH had no medical practice experience and another was hepatitis positive.
Dr Amai and Dr Lina detailed their experiences in the PNG Exposed blog online, which makes for unpalatable reading.