The Coronial Inquest into the death of Late Rex Wanzing has been adjourned to November 16th, to allow the possibility of the Health Minister to produce investigation findings by the National Department of Health (NDOH) to the coroner.
This follows the appearance of the Health Secretary Dr Osbourne Liko yesterday (Thursday 20/10/22) who's a key witness in the inquest.
The Coroner in this inquest, Magistrate Josephine Kilage want's the inquest completed soon, and findings made to establish what went wrong.
Dr Liko made his appearance at the Port Moresby District court house where the inquest was taking place, and read from a prepared statement given to the coroner.
He outlined the steps taken by his department following reports received of the passing of 15 year old, Late Wanzing and three others from the Port Moresby General Hospital in August 2020 as a result of suspected death caused by the use of propofol medication.
A medical search online by NBC News, indicated that Propofol medication is used to help a patient relax or sleep before and during surgery or other medical procedures. This medicine is an anesthetic and a sedative.
An investigation was conducted following a direction by the then Health Minister Jelta Wong after he received a report from the Port Moresby General Hospital on the 14th of August 2021.
Dr Liko who was appointed as the Health Secretary on October 2020 few months after the deaths occurred told the inquest, the completed report is now the custody of the Health Minister Dr Lino Tom.
He says, it is up to the health minister to present a copy of the report to the coroner and he has no say in it. This Dr Liko says, is based on legal advice received by the then Attorney General and Justice Secretary Dr Erick Kwa last year. Currently Pila Niningi who is a lawyer by profession assumes the role of the AG after being appointed Justice Minister.
Magistrate Josephine Kilage has ordered Dr Liko to seek proper advice from the Attorney General Pila Niningi and whether the report could be produced to the coronor by the current health minister.
She says, the NDOH investigative report is a very important document and will greatly assist them to conclude the Coronial Inquest.
The health minister and his secretary will be travelling out of the country today (Friday 21/10/22) for 9 days on official duties , forcing the inquest to adjourned to November 16th.
Two others appeared and gave statements also, with the PNG Pharmaceutical Society distancing itself from the saga.
President of the PNG Pharmaceutical Society, Anita Ireng called for relevant authorities including the state agencies to assist the inquest so the cause of the death and processes followed to procure the medicine during the Covid Pandemic can be established and find where the fault is at.
The Health Department’s Technical Adviser, Medicine Quality Control, Graham Wafimbukie gave evidence on Wednesday.
Wafimbuikie told the inquiry that PMGH and Area Medical Store have quarantined the medicine under their care and would be the one's asked to provide the batch of the propofol medication number 2100, when the coroner asked for those specific batch to be produced by the Health Department to assist the inquest.
Another key evidence presented by Wafimbuikie was that the particular batch of propofol by-passed the Health Department's procument process and came together with other supplies through the United Nations Office for Project Service (UNOPS) procument process during the Covid Pandemic. Those were established to be supplies from India.
A search online by NBC News also confirmed, Propofol medication may also be used to sedate coronavirus (COVID-19) patients who need mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit (ICU). This may be one of the reasons, the propfol medication was procured together with Covid Vaccines by the UNOPS.
UNOPS are covered under diplomatic immunity and could not be called in to present their statements to the Coronial Inquest.
The inquest heard on Tuesday, from the Acting Deputy Health Secretary National Health Standards and Compliance, Dr Goa Tau that the Propofol medication used on the patients was contaminated based on testing done in Australia.
The Propofol sample was sent to Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia which determined this as part of NDOH investigation.
Goa further admitted, the anaesthetists responsible at Port Moresby General Hospital failed to properly do a check before administering the drug to Late Wanzing and three others resulting in their deaths.
The Coronial Inquest is adjourned to November 16th, 2022 which will also see summons issued to the police commissioner and other relevant witnesses to appear.
Coronial Inquest are conducted under the Coronors Act (1951) when requested by the Attorney General, and its top priority in this instance is to establish what went wrong and the cause of this medical death through the findings. It is not to establish guilt or find people or agencies responsible for the deaths. The findings can then be used by police in the criminal case to conducted its own investigation or the family in civil law suit against the State.
NBC News. / PNG Health Watch
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