SO, after a very long day of travel and an unexpected nights stay in Port Moresby we are up at the crack of dawn on Thursday to (hopefully) get onto a flight to Goroka.
On our flight from Cairns to Moresby we met an Australian architect (married to a Papua New Guinean) who works on projects in both PNG and Australia – he was very keen to find out more about what we do and very happy to assist with on ground logistics.
Finally getting a seat on the morning flight to Goroka we boarded and the. The final empty seat next to Marie was taken by the CEO of Goroka Hospital, Dr Joseph Apa. What were the chances. It was lovely for Marie to catch up and we were able to start a casual meeting.
I listened hard (over the engines of the Fokker 700) and started to get a feel for the challenges he faced in his role. Infection control is a major challenge, in the hospital and in the community. Illnesses such as HIV-aids are now well treated and stabilising, but unfortunately TB is extremely problematic at the moment.
Flying through the clouds and seeing the beauty of the green hills and villages below it felt nice to be arriving in to the Highlands. We were greeted by Mummy Sonia (Director of Nursing) and Mummy Julie (Rural Health nursing director) it was a very warm welcome and many people were very happy to see Marie back in Goroka. We toured the town. The bustling bilim market, The Trade Centre market (a huge outdoor produce and odds and ends market), the Goroka University and the main strip. The streets are full of people here for the annual Goroka Show (known to the best in PNG).
We are staying at the simple accommodation on the hospital grounds, next door to Sonia. It was an impressive sight to see the new (yet empty) hospital on the grounds over shadowing the existing site. This will house the new A&E, theatres and labour ward. The current hospital will continue to be used as the general hospital wards. There are still some teething problems with the new site and more staff are needed to run the extra space. We are hoping to have a tour and meet with the Obstetrician over seeing the transition tomorrow to see if there are any practical measures we can take whilst here to help with the transition.
Marie and I did a walk through of the hospital. It was so lovely as the nurses on the ward remembered her- it was a real homecoming. I found the experience to be unexpected, but still confronting. The simplicity of the open wards, the small amount of equipment, many family members tending to the sick and poor staff patient ratios are apparent. The hospital supplies basic meals, but patients bring their own linen and blankets. The toilet facilities are very basic and communal for the ward. We talked with the staff in the neonatal ward and have a wish list from them of items they require (which we have). The next step is to get these here with out needing to send a whole container.
The one thing that is very noticeable here and in town is the friendliness of the people and the importance of family and community. The staff at the hospital all want the best for their patients and they are doing very difficult work with very limited resources to what we have available.
We are sharing our accommodation with Margret Evans an infection control nurse specialist. She is presenting at the Grand Rounds tomorrow to the doctors and nurses to help improve infection control within the hospital, a challenge for all medical centres, but a huge ask in this environment. We have sat up this evening talking infection control, politics, process and human nature with nurses. A meeting planned for tomorrow with the CEO, a tour of the new hospital and let’s see what that brings.