These challenges became rather more apparent when we were split into group to tour the wards. Whilst others went to view the neo-natal and psychiatric wards, our small group went to the Soroptimist funded Women and Children’s Clinic. From the accounts I heard on the other wards, this seems to be the bright spot in a hospital that is, literally, falling down around the patients.
The Clinic treats and counsels women and children who are the victims of domestic violence. The hospital provides that space and supplies for its operation while the rest of the funding – for staff and other overheads – come from the Soroptimist NGO. As well as treating the injuries and trauma that are the result of the violence, the clinic is actively engaged in prevention. They have trained and supported 40 volunteers (half of which are men) to go out to communities to provide information and workshops about alternative ways of dealing with anger/frustration etc and demonstrating to women that violence and rape are not acceptable and they can get help.
The clinic is also working closely with the local police in Lae to make sure that complaints are followed through on and perpetrators are punished.
About 1000 women have visited the clinic in the last two and a half years.
The other groups in the delegation found the rest of the hospital in serious decline. The buildings have been severely affected by termites causing crumbling walls and floors. Much of the equipment is broken and languishing in corridors, and supplies are sporadic.
Its hard to imagine how all this seems to the people – some of whom walk for days – when they bring their sick loved-ones for treatment. But, in many cases, this run-down hospital is the best available and the only option.
Papua New Guinea