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Papua New Guinea

Free life saving operations for children must be official government policy

There are six happy children in Port Moresby that have just gone through life saving heart operations at a major hospital.

And the nobility of their cases is that, they went through very complex cardiac procedures and at no cost to their parents or guardians from May 6-10.

They were born with heart defects and their conditions were previously untreatable in PNG.

And they can now recover well and live normal lives like others all because of the kind-hearted consideration and commitment of the Laila Foundation which is the charitable arm of the Pacific International Hospital.

Had the foundation not intervened, the six and their parents would have struggled to fork out a massive K340,000 each to pay for the operations overseas.

The foundation went out of its way to collaborate with US-based For Hearts & Souls Foundation to engage a team of highly specialised pediatric interventional cardiologists to perform the operations.

PIH chief executive officer Col Sandeep Shaligram said all his staff were delighted to welcome the “For Hearts and Souls” team back to PIH and to give another group of six young PNG children a chance at life they would otherwise not have had.

This is another example of PIH and its charitable arm, Laila Foundation working together for the benefit of the community.

The children can lead a perfectly normal life immediately after the procedure, there being no recovery period.

For the State this is exactly where official policy should embrace and be designed specifically targeting life-threatening conditions for children in PNG.

Children and those with life-threatening conditions do not constitute a bulky chunk of the population in any way or at any one time.

As such specific policy targets should be set to cater for their medical needs and requirements, be they complex operations as the one undertaken at the PIH.

It is well known that many diseases and conditions affecting children cannot be treated in-country but with the sort of arrangements being undertaken by the Laila Foundation, they can be saved.

It is for the State and its responsible agencies to take stock and appraise this specific target and plan ahead either through collaborations or other specialised arrangements to treat children in-country instead of going overseas.

And if the figure of K340,000 per child per operation is any indication of the costs involved, the State must consider budgetary allocations to implement a free life-saving operation policy.

Health care should not be generalised but streamlined to meet specific target areas like special or specific child health care requirements.

Budgetary support can also be considered for organisations like Laila Foundation that can be utilised to implement a State policy of free live saving operations for children.

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