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In Papua New Guinea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to treat patients with tuberculosis (TB), the second-highest cause of death in the country. We also supported the national COVID-19 response.
With some 836 dialects spoken, around 12 percent of all the world’s languages can be found in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
North of Australia, the country of more than 6.5 million people is located on the eastern end of the world's second largest island.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in PNG in 1992. The country is prone to tidal waves, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, to which we have responded, as well as the high rates of tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS and sexual violence.
MSF’s work in Papua New Guinea: 2020
Our teams collaborate with the national TB programme to improve screening, prevention, diagnosis, treatment initiation and follow-up at Gerehu hospital in the capital, Port Moresby, and in Kerema in Gulf province.
MSF follows the World Health Organization’s new treatment recommendations for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), which means that all medication is oral and patients no longer need to have painful daily injections. This, and the reduction in severe side effects, leads to better treatment adherence.
In Port Moresby, we provide care to patients with drug-sensitive and drug-resistant forms of TB, including home visits when required. In 2020, many patients came from outside our clinic’s catchment area to seek care. We referred those who were diagnosed with TB to different treatment facilities for registration and treatment.
We also built a TB laboratory at Tokarara clinic to support the National Capital District provincial health authority in expanding diagnosis in the North West catchment area.
Kerema is a largely rural district, with isolated communities spread over a wide area and limited access to healthcare. Although we saw fewer TB patients compared to previous years, we continued to offer diagnosis and care to patients in the catchment areas of two general healthcare facilities, Kerema and Malalawa. We strengthened patient followup, which resulted in fewer patients stopping treatment prematurely. In Kerema public hospital, we supported TB laboratory activities and integrated HIV screening.
The country saw a relatively small number of COVID-19 infections throughout 2020. Our teams conducted training in infection prevention and control, and provided technical assistance to the Department of Health for the construction of a dedicated COVID-19 treatment facility in Port Moresby. We also supported the laboratory of that makeshift hospital by implementing rapid COVID-19 testing, reducing the turnaround time to less than one hour. The implementation of a well-coordinated find, test, trace, isolate and support system aimed to identify and outbreaks before they became unmanageable.
MSF’s work in Papua New Guinea: 2019
We are working in collaboration with the national TB programme to improve screening, diagnosis, treatment initiation and follow-up at Gerehu hospital in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, and in Kerema city in Gulf province.
In 2019, the World Health Organization’s new treatment recommendations for multidrugresistant TB (MDR-TB) were introduced for all patients, meaning that they no longer have to undergo painful daily injections and instead receive an all-oral treatment with six months of bedaquiline, a relatively new drug that has fewer side effects.
This has enabled MSF to address the key issues of improving patient care, adherence to treatment and treatment success rates.
In Port Moresby, due to the high patient numbers, we built a dedicated TB clinic within the compound of Gerehu hospital. The new facility allows us to screen, diagnose and treat more patients safely.
We scaled up our mobile activities, running clinics in remote areas of Gulf province and providing better access to diagnosis and treatment for patients previously excluded from these services for geographical, economic or cultural reasons. This decentralised model of care means that patients do not need to visit medical facilities so frequently, saving them transport costs.
Throughout 2019, we introduced improvements in quality of care, with the integration of HIV testing, greater emphasis on counselling and closer monitoring of patients, their treatments and any side effects. This has helped to reduce the number of patients failing to complete treatment.