A new ward specifically for tuberculosis patients is to be built at Popondetta General Hospital in a major step to tackle the disease in Oro Province.
The six-bed ward with associated facilities in a separate new building at the hospital will allow the proper isolation of seriously ill patients to stop them spreading the disease.
The building is being financed through major donations from Network Kokoda and Oro Community Development Project (OCDP) and the builder Canstruct, which recently completed four large bridges in Oro Province funded by the Australian government.
The hospital's chief executive, Dr Gunzee Gawin, who is on the board of OCDP, says the construction of the ward is very timely because of the detection in recent months of multi-drug resistant strains of TB in the province. It is particularly important that the five cases that we know of so far are confined to a facility to stop the spread of these strains, he adds.
At the moment we have to keep patients away because if they come to the hospital it is going to be like an atomic bomb. Our doctors are visiting them in their houses and treating them one at a time, which is a huge task and we don't know if anyone else in the household is infected.
Dr Gawin says TB is the leading cause of admissions to his hospital and the leading cause of death in PNG.
Prefabrication of the building is underway at Canstruct's Brisbane factory and is expected to take four to six weeks. The material will then be shipped in two containers to Oro Bay, from where it will be transported by trucks to Popondetta. Local tradesmen will assemble the building in the hospital grounds.
Network Kokoda looks forward to the ward being ready to take its first patients early in the new year.