PRIME Minister James Marape has slammed the PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) for failing to study COVID-19 in relation to Papua New Guinean immunology ever since the pandemic outbreak in 2020.
The Prime Minister was speaking at the recent meeting of the National Control Centre on Thursday (22.07.21) when he told leading health practitioners that he was greatly “discouraged” by the inaction, lax attitude and lack of innovation shown by the country’s leading medical research facility.
“PNGIMR, I am yet to see a good complete submission from you that says I want to do research!,” said the Prime Minister.
To make his point, PM Marape highlighted the case of the COVID-19-infected woman in Asaro, Eastern Highlands Province, in which the patient had a pre-existing condition of living with HIV-AIDS but finally tested negative to the coronavirus, and how no one did anything to find out more about her perplexing case.
“That lady living with HIV-AIDs, right at the heart of PNGIMR, in Asaro; low immunity, drug dependent on anti-retroviral. She was a candidate for death! But despite her low immunity, she tested negative to COVID 14 days later. That should have triggered something in the mind of you scientists!
“Yet PNGIMR saw this as just another case! No innovation. No motivation. No excitement in the space of research and science! Do you need the Prime Minister to tell you what to do?
“Your country is blessed with 6% of the world’s bio-diversity. Someone should be going out there and finding out why our ancestors lived through Malaria, lived with snakebite?
“Sometimes I think maybe I am wasting my time up front. I may be talking something 10, 15 years down the line and you people are not getting it,” said PM Marape.
The Prime Minister said research was always needed and welcomed but researchers must come forward, state their case and justify the budget support for it to receive the needed funding.
“No one stops the Health Department, medical researchers or any one of you from conducting research. Every good organisation has a strong element of research unit attached to it. Someone out there needs to step up and do it without being directed. It comes with the territory, it comes with the job.
“When certain academics come to do research on their own, we accuse them for their initiatives. But our mindset must be frontier-breaking. We are now taking vaccines that are being developed by other human beings like you.”
He said the Government was available to assist research and promote innovation but researchers must push for the money for it from Government.
For the new plans for integrating COVID-19 response into the health system, he has invited the Health Department to also include COVID19 research into the submission.