Officials to send dead girl home in dinghy

A Papua New Guinean man whose daughter died in a Queensland hospital has been told by bureaucrats he will have to use a dinghy to get himself and his daughter's body home.
Petru Aniba made a mercy dash from his home village to the Torres Strait in February in the hope of saving his 14-year-old daughter Marthi, who was suffering tuberculosis.
She eventually died in Cairns Base Hospital. Her father too had tuberculosis and has only been released from quarantine.

Queensland Health officials said they would only fly the man and his dead daughter as far as the Torres Strait.
His friend Robert Slade says Mr Aniba travelled from his village to the Papua New Guinean township of Daru, and from there canoed to Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.
"Then from Saibai he was choppered to Thursday Island, then from Thursday Island he was flown down to the Cairns Base Hospital," Mr Slade said.

"Unfortunately, his daughter Marthi passed away on February 24 and then Aniba was put into isolation for a few months because of tuberculosis.
"He came out of isolation about, roughly, five weeks ago and has been waiting for him and his daughter to be able to be repatriated back home so he can bury his daughter.
"Queensland Health were prepared to send him and his daughter back to Saibai, but unfortunately from Saibai he would have to organise for his brother-in-law to bring a dinghy over from Daru to Saibai, which is an eight-hour journey in a dinghy and uses approximately 80 litres of fuel."
Mr Slade says Mr Aniba would have to take his daughter's body on board the dinghy without any refrigeration.


The situation has outraged Warren Entsch, the Liberal MP for Leichhardt.
"How could we do this in this country?" he said.
"When this fellow basically takes a huge risk, he's seriously ill himself, comes across to our borders looking to try and save his 14-year-old daughter, as any parent would do, we say 'right, we'll dump him on Saibai and he can find his own way home and he can take the body of his daughter with him'.
"It is just heartless."
A Queensland Health spokeswoman says the department does have a policy of returning people to their point of entry.
Mr Entsch described that policy as "bloody bullshit".
"They know where he came from. That's a bit like saying 'all of these that are coming in illegally in the boats, well, we've only got to take them out and dump them back on Ashmore Reef'," he said.
Mr Entsch has launched an appeal to raise $15,000 in airfares for Mr Aniba.
But late Friday, Queensland Health released a statement saying it was prepared to provide whatever assistance was required to ensure Mr Aniba and his daughter's body were safely repatriated to their home village and that cost was not an issue.
Cairns District chief executive Julie Hartley-Jones said staff had met Mr Aniba on Thursday to discuss the best way to get him and his daughter home.
She said he asked to be flown to Saibai and for Queensland Health to provide fuel for the boat trip back to his home, which the department agreed to pay for.
However, she said Mr Aniba had since indicated he was reconsidering his options.
"Regardless of this, Queensland Health stands ready and willing to do everything possible to ensure Mr Petru and his daughter's body can be safely returned to their home village in PNG," she said.

Widespread dilemma

The case raises a more widespread dilemma in the Torres Strait.
Many PNG citizens are making the desperate trip to Australia for medical treatment, suffering from conditions such as tuberculosis, cholera and meningitis.
The tuberculosis clinic of Saibai is the only one in the Torres Strait but has run out of federal funding.
That has prompted an appeal from medical professionals like Professor Ian Wronski, James Cook University's head of medicine, who says tuberculosis is a re-emerging disease.
"Bit by bit it will re-establish in the Torres, it may well be there now," he said.
"Naturally people from PNG move it into the Torres Strait and people from the Torres Strait move it into the Cape, and we'll see tuberculosis re-establish itself in Australia."
Queensland Health Minister Geoff Wilson was not available to talk about the Aniba case but earlier addressed the issue of the tuberculosis clinics.
"Health services to PNG nationals are the responsibility of the Federal Government, but rest assured the Queensland Government's made its views well known to the Commonwealth," he said.
"Only as of yesterday, I spoke with Nicola Roxon about that at the conclusion of the Health Ministers Council there in Melbourne."


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