Cessation of health services to PNG nationals in the Torres Strait

Cessation of health services to PNG nationals in the Torres

FROM:David Wall


Nicola Roxon  Helen
& Paul Dennett
 peter johnson

Message flagged

25 May 2011 5:09 PM

Attention: Adrian White

Acting Assistant Secretary

Health Protection Policy Branch

Office of Health Protection

Dear Mr White

Thank you for your letter of May 19
2011, in answer to my email to Health Minister Hon Nicola Roxon.

It is good to know that the Australian
Government through AusAID intends to increase medical aid directly to PNG, but
I’m sure you know that in any foreign aid programme there are always many
intangibles, and however good the aid is, to my mind, this does not justify
abandoning a working service that is actually delivering and is directly run by

You mention that the cost of treating
PNG nationals in 2009-10 in the Torres Strait is estimated to be $18.9 million,
a figure which to any independent-minded person would not be significant in the
context of the total Australian budget, but I can tell you that waiting for the
powers-to-be in PNG with or without aid will in the long run cost Australia far
more in terms of untreated TB and malaria.

I’ve attached some material which, I
hope, will assist you in seeing that it is essential for Australia to maintain
medical services to PNG nationals in the Torres Strait.

Once again, thank you for your letter,
and your assistance in following up this matter will certainly warrant the
gratitude of the peoples of Australia and PNG.

Yours sincerely

David Wall

Forwarded Message —– From: David Wall <mahal362000@yahoo.com.au> To: nicola.roxon.mp@aph.gov.au Sent: Thursday, 28 April 2011 4:04 PM Subject: PNG people with TB and malaria The Hon Nicola Roxon

Dear Minister

For your information see below:

“The Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have decided to shut down vital tuberculosis clinics in the Torres Strait. Experts now fear that the problem could spread to the mainland.”

April 20, 2011 at 11:18 am (Commentary, Papua New Guinea, Health Services PNG, Health, TB) · Edit


Click onto the above site and try to think of ways to reverse any thoughts by our policy makers to shut down tuberculosis clinics, treating PNG citizens in the Torres Strait Islands.

Drug-resistant strains of TB in PNG are not only disastrous for our neighbour, but if Australia does not help PNG tackle them, eventually and inevitably we will have them in Australia. Of course, there are cases in Australia even now, but we don’t want the situation to get worse!

deberigny said,

April 28, 2011 at 1:34 am

“Australia has banned all travel between its Torres Strait Islands and Papua New Guinea, as health authorities keep a close eye on a malaria outbreak on the islands of Saibai and Dauan.

The ban also aims to prevent malarial patients from Papua New Guinea placing further strain on an already fragile health system.

Travel restrictions were put in place on March 28, with some exemptions for traditional activities of significance.

But a spokesperson from the department of foreign affairs and trade says allowances will no longer be made for activities under the Torres Strait Treaty.”

Source: Australia Network News ABC

How disgraceful this is. Even in our own interests Australia should be more directly involved in helping the people in PNG with their health issues. We left the place far too soon. Is there any wonder that PNG is in such a mess? We send troops off to far-distant lands at great expense, and yet we balk at treating people from our former colony suffering from malaria and TB. The Commonwealth should do something about this, not later, but now!

Surely it is in Australia’s interests to maintain the barrier of health care in the Torres Strait Islands. This is quite apart from any humanitarian concerns all of us should have for the people in our former colony.

An injection of Commonwealth funds directly into the clinics in the Torres Strait, to maintain the treatment of TB and malaria sufferers, I’m sure, you would see as an important aid to the people of PNG and Australia.

Most medical authorities, whom I’m aware of, are alarmed by the present policy developments.

Minister, please do what you can, and I thank you for your consideration.

With all good wishes,

David Wall


Deadly TB strain ‘will spread’ to Australia

SERIOUSLY ILL PNG nationals visiting the Torres
Strait have ignited a furious debate over

Australia’s broader health responsibilities in
the region. The Australian and Queensland

governments are considering closing down
tuberculosis clinics on the Outer Islands, a move that

experts fear could lead to the spread a strain of
the disease described by one Queensland

Health officer as “a death sentence”.

Dr Justin Waring of the national tuberculosis advisory committee
warns: “In the short term, not

treating these people who come across the water to Australia runs
the risk of transition and

escalation of the drug resistance and ultimately potentially
putting Australian residents at risk.’’

In March 2010, Bronwyn Nardi of Queensland Health said it was not
unusual for 60 percent of

Thursday Island Hospital inpatients to be PNG nationals, with a
high number of those being treated

for TB.

“We know that in Papua there is an extreme drug resistant tuberculosis
which is essentially a death

sentence,” Ms Nardi said told a Senate Committee. Medical experts
say PNG will not be in a

position to manage its TB crisis for at least another decade.

Clinics on islands such as Saibai routinely treat PNG nationals
suffering multi-drug resistant

tuberculosis (MDR TB). Limited surveys estimate that between 10
and 20 percent of tuberculosis in

PNG could be MDR TB.

Dr Waring said if the disease was poorly treated in PNG there was
a risk of escalation. “It’s not just

the individual who doesn’t get better, it’s transmission of
worsening drug resistance and potentially

putting Australian residents at risk,” he said.

Source: Torres News


Deadly TB strain ‘will spread’ to Oz – Mark Roy


Isn’t this the strongest possible argument for Australia to help
boost health services in PNG and the

Torres Strait islands, not close them down? And also make it
easier for people to get treatment?

Who on earth could want such services cut back? I find it
unbelievable and unconscionable that

anyone could seriously suggest reducing health facilities in the
Torres Strait just because PNG

people are in need of help. This could be the litmus test that
shows whether the Australian

government is really serious about improving the quality of life
for our PNG family members.

There are laws that require you to stop and offer help for anyone
injured in a car accident. In fact

you can be prosecuted for ignoring people in need in such
circumstances. Isn’t this the same thing?

How about a major injection of funds and resources to help meet
the challenge of TB and malaria



in PNG and the Torres Strait. Some major new health facilities,
improved training for health

workers, better resources to fight disease? Help Port Moresby
General Hospital to become a decent

hospital for a start. Establish better health services in Daru.
Double the capacity at Thursday Island


Surely this would be more worthwhile than bribing the PNG pollies
with millions to allow a

detention centre on Manus to be re-opened to accommodate a few
dozen Afghan refugees, who

Australia is too embarrassed to grant human rights on Australian
soil. Sorry Keith for getting

passionate, but this is a real and present danger that needs to be
addressed by clear and practical

policy designed to help, not racist judgments about ‘closing the
border to the disease-infected PNG


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