Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Senator McLucas inspects TB progress in Daru

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas visited Daru today to inspect the progress of Australia’s program to help the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government treat tuberculosis (TB) in Western Province, PNG.

Senator McLucas is in PNG to attend the Pacific Islands Forum Disability Ministers Meeting in Port Moresby tomorrow.

Australia has committed A$11 million (PGK23 million) to improve health infrastructure, treatment and public awareness of TB in Western Province.

“I have always been of the view that supporting the Government of PNG to address the problem of TB in Western Province is the right thing to do, and Australia is doing so in a targeted and cost-effective way,” Senator McLucas said.

“A total of 92 patients have been transferred from Queensland to PNG health services. Of these 65 patients have completed their treatment and 27 continue their treatment. I also saw the significant improvement in patient outcomes with the mortality of patients suffering from TB reduced in a year from 25% to just under 5%.”

“The AusAID-funded sea ambulance is conducting outreach visits along the South Fly coast on a monthly basis and medical evacuations as required. I was able to review the sea ambulance personally and hear from Western Province health staff how vital this vessel is in improving health services to communities along the South Fly coast including the treaty villages.”

“Since the Stop TB Program commenced in February this year the number of patients commencing first line drug treatment has almost doubled. This improvement in diagnostic capacity is as a direct result of AusAID’s support and the dedication of the Western Province health staff.

“Community outreach and advocacy activities are progressing well, with 21 community health workers and 35 volunteers undertaking Directly Observed Treatments (DOTS) of TB patients in Daru and the South Fly region of Western Province.

“DOTS is the World Health Organisation endorsed protocol for TB control and has been proven to work. It ensures TB patients stay on their medication for the full course, which helps to prevent the emergence of drug resistance.

“The new x-ray and ‘geneXpert machine’, which can identify some drug resistant strains of TB within two hours, have substantially improved diagnostics services at Daru General Hospital. A new TB ward at Daru General Hospital is on track to be completed by March 2013, with AusAID support.

“While health service delivery in PNG is ultimately the responsibility of the Government of PNG, I can report that Australia’s partnership in supporting the government of PNG address the issue of TB is making a very positive difference . The problem will not be solved overnight, and AusAID will continue to support PNG in its fight against TB,” Senator McLucas said.