Doorstop interview, Angau Memorial Hospital

Lae, Papua New Guinea

Subjects: ANGAU Memorial Hospital redevelopment; medical supply tender

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

6 February 2014

JULIE BISHOP: I am delighted to be here in Lae in my first visit as Australia's Foreign Minister to the second largest city in Papua New Guinea. I have visited Papua New Guinea on a number of occasions before but it is my first time to come here to what is the heartbeat of the PNG economy. I am joined by the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Religation, who is also the local member for Lae city; the Secretary of the Health Department; our friend from Australia who is looking after the reconstruction project; His Excellency Governor Naru; High Commissioner; and the CEO of the hospital here.

The Australian Government has committed to work in partnership with the Papua New Guinea Government to redevelop the ANGAU Hospital here in Lae city. This is an important hospital that services the province and broader areas as well as the people who live in this city. We are going to plan this in a methodical way so that we can get the best outcomes for a sustainable health centre here in Lae city.

Already I have had discussions with the representatives of the hospital and the Governor and the Papua New Guinea Government about how we can go about planning a health centre that will last for decades. The original hospital is now 50 years old. It was built in 1964 and as you can see it has become rather run down, it has been attacked by termites over time, there is asbestos in the building, so we need to work very hard to lift the standards to something that is world class.

I believe with the commitment from the Australian Government, and the commitment from the Papua New Guinea Government, we can build infrastructure here of which everybody can be proud. But a hospital is more than just a building. We also need to ensure that the staff are trained, that the medical equipment is first class and that everything is maintained so we are building the capacity as well as building the infrastructure. We are very pleased to be working in partnership and if I could ask the Governor to say a few words as well, it has been a delight to be here and to see on the ground what is going to be built here in the future. The Australian Government is proud to be in partnership for the reconstruction of the ANGAU Hospital. Your Excellency.

MOROBE PROVINCE GOVERNOR MR KELLY NARU: Thank you, thank you very much. Honourable Minister Bishop and our good High Commissioner, Ms Stokes, and the Australian delegation. It is indeed a privilege and a big honour for the people of Lae city and Morobe Province together with our Honourable Member and Minister and the population of this city to receive you and your delegation here in Lae city. Indeed this is a historical visit and you have come at the time when we are really in dire need of assistance as you can see in terms of this hospital, we have had to undergo a major problem in relation to medical disaster, particularly in relation to termites eating away at the hospital. Just like what your ancestors did in World War II when they came through what used to be known as ANGAU – the Australian-New Guinea Administrative Unit – to come and bail out this place during the war, you have now come in this modern day as part of the Australian forces that were here many, many years ago to course rescue our people and our city and to give us a good hospital and for this we are most, most grateful and thank you, thank you very much Honourable Minister.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA MEMBER FOR LAE AND MINISTER FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, YOUTH AND RELIGION, MS LOUJAYA KOUZA: Your Presence here in Lae city, Honourable Minister, is a great show of confidence and commitment by your government. Our government wants to affirm with you, to you, as I stand here that the challenge now in this partnership is to be able to go a step further to ensure that not only is this infrastructure arrived at and benefitted by the people of Papua New Guinea and the Australian taxpayers but we also stand to work together towards a transparent and sustainable arrangement as well in the years to come.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask a question, not directly related to the hospital but can I get your comments on the recent controversy over the tender for drugs in Papua New Guinea that was awarded to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals.

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is pleased to support the Papua New Guinea Government in establishing an independent health procurement authority. The issue over pharmaceuticals was a disagreement we had over the tender being awarded to a company that we did not believe met the international standards required, but we can resolve this by establishing an independent health procurement authority and we will certainly support the Papua New Guinean Government in putting that in place.

JOURNALIST: Minister Bishop, what about Manus where the asylum seeker processing centre is. They have been whingeing about having their hospital also fixed up.

JULIE BISHOP: We're obviously supporting the Governor in Manus Island and the people of Manus Island in a number of ways. This agreement over the Lae hospital was something that was entered into at the time that Papua New Guinea agreed to host the centre in Manus Island. There are a whole raft of projects that are underway including this one but also many on Manus Island and the opportunity for the people on Manus Island is to be part of the contract work that is taking place there, there is an extension to the facility that is underway, so there are a lot of job opportunities in Manus as well. High Commissioner, perhaps you can comment on the details?

AUSTRALIA'S HIGH COMMISSIONER TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA, DEBORAH STOKES: I might say with respect to the hospital in Lorengau, we have provided some equipment at their request, we have also built a clinic for STI. We are also just in the process of finalising the Master Plan for the Lorengau Hospital and once that's agreed with the National Department of Health and the Provincial Government, then we can look at what more we can do. So, again, it's a methodical process and we work very closely with Dr Otto Numan who is the head of that hospital and we have a very productive relationship with him on Manus.

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