A taste of politics

Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Sep 09, 2012

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Where I stayed
Peter Torot Centre

Flag of Papua New Guinea  ,
Friday, May 18, 2012

Hey guys, hope things are well back home.

Getting used to laid back lifestyle here in the New Ireland province. There's plenty of time to kill after finishing at the hospital for the day. I usually go down to the markets or play a bit of rugby with some of the guys before jumping in the ocean for an evening swim or 'wash wash’. I went for a walk earlier this week around ‘big nusa’ island where I discovered beautiful beaches, dense tropical vegetation and the historic remnants of Japanese WWII AA guns and bunkers.  

This week saw the annual ‘council of elders’ conference held at the Peter Torot centre. The three day event is put on by the current New Ireland governor in the build up to elections and brings together hundreds of people from islands and villagers from all over the province.  They actually spruced up the Peter Torot centre quite nicely and it came alive with colour and activity. I was lucky enough to be able to experience this event. There were some really interesting ideas for the future and I think that New Ireland is staged to be a leader in PNG especially in the fields of tourism and natural resources. I joked around with a tonne of people from all over the province and now have offers left right and centre to come to their villages in all corners of New Ireland. Many of them live simple, laid back lives and often don’t have money to buy even a regular supple of rice. Instead they all live off the land with fresh seafood, vegetables and fruit. Despite all this they are amazingly hospitable and friendly.   

Every night during the event they would put on a massive feast with fresh pish (fish), mumu (pork cooked for hours on hot stones)kakaruk (chicken), mud crabs, kumu (fresh vegetables),  prut (fruit), etc. Kai kai em swit nogut tru! For some reason the people show too much respect towards me and even ushered me to get the food off the table where all the dignitaries were sitting. I was lucky enough to say hi to the former PNG prime minister and provincial governor.

Each day they had traditional malagan dances and singing. Friday was capped off by a festive march to the provisional government office for the governor to sign the application for election candidate. It was a privilege to be able to experience the rich culture and traditions first hand. The street can alive with singing and traditional dancing in malagan masks and costumes. 

As for the hospital, I spent the week in the maternity ward which has been very eye opening and rewarding. Despite being a small hospital they get reasonably busy due to the high reproductive rate in PNG. Unfortunately maternal and child mortality is also much higher than in Australia. I got to experience firsthand some examples of the factors contributing to these figures. Often women get referred from rural health centres with only a little antenatal care and it’s a painstaking challenge trying to establish some sort of accurate gestational age and estimated delivery date. C-sections are reserved basically for cases if there is significant fetal distress, and babies are commonly delivered in breech position. The labour ward also lacks any privacy with three beds and no curtains. 

 A lot of the theatre time is dedicated to patients getting their tubes tied (one of the most common family planning methods). Unfortunately the main theatres have been ‘under rennovation’ indefinitely so all surgery is shared in a small theatre next to the labour ward. The standards of sterility here are somewhat less here and it was a shock seeing people operating in bare feet.

Anaemia of pregnancy is really common here especially with the high prevalence of malaria (all mothers get antimalarias, ferrous sulphate, and folic acid). There are some people walking around asymptomatic with Hb levels of as low as 4g/dl. Unfortunately blood isn’t the most abundant thing in the hospital. One post partum haemorrhage patient this week urgently needed blood…the only blood available was positive for syphilis and the decision was made to transfuse her and then treat her after.  There are a number of other examples of events that you would never see in Australia. One mother was planned to get her tubes tied but started becoming Short of breath. Within a couple of hours we had to rush to her side room because her airway became occluded and she was coughing up blood. Turns out she had a massive abscess under her tongue which had compromised her airway. The general surgeon wasn’t in the hospital and the O&G consultant was left to do an incision and drainage right there in the dirty side room…long way from the uterus! The same day a baby was delivered with a gastrocele. Unfortunately with the lack of specialty facilities and surgery the poor little thing died of sepsis a couple days later. The nurses and doctors in the hospital are lovely and keep teasing me to learn more Tok Pisin.  

I’m going this weekend up to Laraibina village on the East Coast for a taste of village life and to meet my new adopted PNG family.
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