Thursday, September 06, 2007

NS death toll reaches 20

NS death unacceptable

It is with deep regret that we read of the death of the tragic death of Mohd Rafi Ameer, a National Service (NS) trainee at the Cheneh Cemerlang camp.This brings the total number of deaths to 20. The untimely death of the 18-year old lad is really terrible loss to the family and the nation.

Mohd.Rafi was first treated at the Cheneh Cemerlang camp’s clinic on Monday,27 August 2007 for fever, cough and flu. He came back the next day with more symptoms and again given treatment at the same clinic. Five days after his initial treatment, his condition worsened and he was sent to the Kemaman Hospital. The following day (Saturday,1 September 2007) he was rushed to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital in Kuantan,more than a hundred kilometers away, but unfortunately he died on the way to the hospital.

Looking at the circumstances of the death reveals 2 major contributing factors :

1. Exposure to some deadly pathogen
2. Inadequate medical expertise and facilities to diagnose and treat the patient.

From the chronology of the events as reported above, it is quite obvious that Mohd.Rafi was not well from the start. He must have been harbouring some serious illness even on the first day he reported at the clinic. Whoever treated him at that time did not recognize the gravity of his ailment thereby leaving him neglected in the camp for 5 days within which time his conditioned worsened and he died on the 6th day.

We are not sure who really attended to him in the camp’s clinic. Was he examined by an experienced doctor? However it is reasonably clear the boy’s illness was not taken seriously and therefore invaluable time was lost in administering early treatment for his ailment. Any disease will continue to run its natural course unless we detect it and intervene at an early stage using all the expertise and facilities at our disposal. The onus is on us for timely intervention not on the disease to wait for us.

The unfortunate death of Mohd.Rafi warrants a thorough investigation into the set up of the health environment and medical facilities at our NS camps all over the country
It is unacceptable to subject our children to the high risks of the present format of NS. The NS camps are located in remote areas with unsatisfactory arrangements for basic amenities and health and medical care. They are unnecessarily exposed to various pathogens of unknown virulence to which the children are not immune.

Imagine the torment and anguish of the parents in losing a child after 11 years of upbringing. It is an emotional wreck for the whole family. No amount of monetary compensation will ever be able to erase the misery for the rest of their lives.

The authorities responsible must place themselves in the position of the parents of Mohd.Rafi and the parents of other NS victims. They must search their conscience to see whether the NS programme is really necessary. Egoism and monetary considerations should not be allowed to cloud their minds in their decision.

The aim of the NS may be noble - to forge closer unity among the youth of various races but I cannot understand how this can be achieved in just 3 months when it could not be done after 11 years of schooling together.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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