TB isolation ward in Western Province, PNG takes shape

Report
from Australian Agency for International Development
Published on 08 Feb 2013 View Original

The fight against tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province is making progress as a new TB ward, funded by AusAID, begins to take shape.

The new 22-bed TB ward at Daru General Hospital is part of a $31 million package of support Australia is providing to help the Government of PNG to improve health services in one of its poorest provinces.

There will be six isolation rooms to isolate patients in the infectious stage of TB so they do not pass the disease on to others, with a further 16 bed inpatient ward for TB patients in the convalescent stage.

The design of the ward has been assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as complying with international infection control standards. WHO is the global authority on TB treatment.

The ward is just one part of a broad range of measures AusAID is supporting to help PNG fight the disease. Since implementing the package of support, mortality rates for drug-resistant TB in Western Province have been dramatically reduced from 25 per cent to just 5 per cent in the year leading up to September 2012. Detection of the disease rose by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

Dr Geoff Clark, AusAID’s Program Director for Health and HIV in Port Moresby, said treatment for TB can take anywhere from 6 to 24 months.

"When you look at the amount of time it takes for people to recover, it’s clear that any approach that is going to work must branch out into the communities where people live," Dr Clark said.

"The specialist TB facilities at Daru are a critical element of AusAID’s broader package of support."

AusAID is implementing the WHO-endorsed Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTs). DOTS requires a community health worker to visit patients every day once they are discharged from hospital to make sure they take their medication correctly.

"Ensuring patients take their full course of drugs at the right time over the full duration of treatment is the best way to treat TB and prevent drug resistance," Mr Clark said.

AusAID’s package of support is providing:

•TB specialist medical staff
•training for community health workers and volunteer treatment supporters
•a sea ambulance that travels to patients in remote locations
•medical equipment
•drugs
•laboratory diagnosis (in Australia) of drug-resistant TB.

In addition, AusAID is also providing:

•up to $10 million for the rehabilitation of Daru Hospital
•up to $5 million for the rehabilitation of the Mabaduan Health Centre—which is less than five kilometres from Queensland’s Saibai Island; and
•a $5 million contribution to support the Middle and South Fly Health Development Program —a $37 million initiative to improve primary health jointly funded by the Ok Tedi Fly River Development Program and AusAID.