A community leader and former senior public servant, Martin Firmin Pat has appealed to the authorities to respond immediately to contain the impact of COVID-19 on the province.
According to Mr Pat, since last month, there has been a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in SHP but there is no evidence of viable response from the local government.
The former advisor for provincial disaster and emergency for Southern Highlands and Hela provinces said within the last four to five weeks, Mendi hospital has seen increased number of deaths and at least 50 were reported from COVID-19.
“There are many more dying outside of the hospital and are buried immediately. Haus krais are exhausting the people’s budget because it is everywhere. People with symptoms of COVID-19 are fearful of going to the isolation centre,” he said.
Mr Pat is urging the SHP Governor to ensure the promised K1 million to the Provincial Health Authority is released so the Authority can purchase essential medicine and equipment to combat the pandemic.
He said that in the five districts of Southern Highlands, there is only one fully kitted ambulance while there are very few or no oxygen cylinders and concentrators across the provincial clinics. Drugs for treating other diseases are also at its minimal.
Mr Pat is further calling on the Prime Minister, James Marape, Health Minister, Jelta Wong and Controller David Manning to solicit funding to assist the Provincial Health Authority.
He is also appealing to the business community in the province to step forward and donate to the Authority.
Mr Pat is concerned that frontline workers need to be motivated with incentives as they are hesitant in taking the risk to treat the infected people.
“There is lack of control of people’s movement within provinces, as community transmission remains high. The government needs to ensure that law keepers like the police, Defence Force and Correctional Service be funded to control movement.
“People are ignoring control measures because there is not enough awareness in the community about COVID.”
Meanwhile, vaccination rollout is continuing with the Catholic Church under the Mendi Diocese taking the lead using its health facilities to carry out the rollout. There are a number of business houses coming forward to get their employees vaccinated.