MAF flew a health patrol team into the Kabwum District to provide essential medical care
In January MAF flew a health team of seven medical professionals from Braun Memorial Hospital (BMH) into the remote village of Indagen. While visiting the Indagen Health Clinic the team was able to see a total of 221 patients, perform 20 minor operations, vaccinate 88 children, provide physiotherapy for 47 patients, and restock the clinic’s pharmacy with essential medications.
“Our main purpose is to see patients here in Indagen and help out with the shortage of drugs, and see to those who need medical assistance,” said Paias Korus the health team leader and a second-year medical resident officer (RMO) from BMH.
Paias tested positive for malaria shortly after landing in Indagen and was forced to battle the illness while also providing essential health care needed by the villagers. On the team's third day, Paias helped lead operations, ranging from the removal of abnormal growths to hernia surgeries, working in the clinic’s makeshift operating room for 14 continuous hours while fighting off fever and chills brought on by his newly diagnosed case of malaria.
According to the BMH team, malaria has started to become endemic across areas of PNG that use to sit above the malaria line, such as Indagen. In the past, villages in the country’s highlands did not have to worry about malaria due to the colder temperatures brought on by their higher elevations. However, the change in the global climate has begun to result in the threat of malaria-infected mosquitos encroaching into new areas that use to be deemed too cold for the disease-carrying insects to survive.
“Malaria is typically seen as a tropical illness and it tends to be more in the lowland areas where it is warm,” said Paias. “But, currently with the climate changing the higher altitudes have started to become warmer and are making these areas more susceptible to malaria."
The BMH team was able to help stock the Indagen Health Clinic with rapid-test malaria kits as well as malarone and primaquine, two drugs used to treat and prevent malaria. While in Indagen five patients were tested for malaria and two resulted in positive tests.
Indagen is part of the Kabwum District in the Morobe province and sits roughly 10 nautical miles from the coastline. However, due to its high elevation (5380 ft) and no access to roads, the district is isolated from all major services and is only accessible via small aircraft or by risking a multi-day walk through the wet jungle.
“People in PNG and especially here in the Kabwum district are in desperate need of medical health services,” said Samuel Auru a RMO with BMH. “So, we are happy that MAF can provide support to the medical team, and the medical hospital in Braun, to help us come here.”
While in Indagen the team was able to see patients who have been in dire need of health services. A couple of Kabwum people were in such poor condition that they were transported from a nearby village in wheelbarrows so that they could receive the help being offered at the clinic.
“It is the first time in my life to see a medical team arrive near my community to provide help,” said Joel Salnuka a clinic patient who travelled several hours on foot from an adjacent village to be seen by the health team.
A couple of weeks before the team arrived, Joel had slipped while traveling through the jungle and fractured his wrist. While visiting the clinic, Joel was able to get his wrist splinted and received a care plan with various exercises that will help see to his recovery.
“We don’t have access to roads or good services. But this medical team really helped our lives. We really appreciate it. We give glory to God,” said Joel.
During the team’s time in Indagen, they were also able to teach some preventative healthcare practices by hosting a Tok Save (Tok Pisin for an informative talk) about tuberculosis, malaria, chronic back pain, and general hygiene care.
MAF is supported by New Zealand Aid with grant funding that enables MAF to fly healthcare teams into remote areas across PNG to provide essential medical support. This funding is used by MAF to connect with provincial health authorities and hospitals while also empowering MAF to dedicate 300 flight hours to specifically support health patrol teams.