2011 KKIA train accident victims should get redress

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At 5.30pm on Oct 31, 2011, a tragic accident took place in front of the Kota Kinabalu Imternational Airport (KKIA). An oil tanker loaded with 27,000 litres of petrol collided with a train moving from Kota Kinabalu towards Beaufort.

Sabah State Railway Department general manager Mohd Zain Mohd Said estimated a loss of over RM 19million due to this mishap.

State police commissioner Hamza Taib reportedly said 116 ticket had been sold and an estimated total of 200 people were on board the train, inclusive of its driver and conductor.

Twelve people were reportedly injured, with three being warded. Of the three, two were women age 33 and 42, and both sustained a broken leg. A 50-year-old man suffered acute exacerbation of a bronchial asthma attack due to inhalation of toxic fumes.

More than a year has passed. The tragedy left behind deep scars in the minds and souls of the victims involved. Some suffer from nightmares while others vowed to never take a train ride again.

The broken leg cases were managed by an orthopaedic surgeon, while the majority of the victims needed to be referred to Bukit Padang Hospital for psychiatric assessment and treatment. Unfortunately some of them have never recovered from the trauma of this accident till the present day.

Most of them actually suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This is a term widely used to describe negative symptoms and signs expressed by soldiers returning to the US after serving in the Vietnam war. PTSD sufferers often also show signs and symptoms of depression such as loss of interest in life and having high suicidal tendency.

PTSD victims also tend to have agoraphobia, or the fear of public places. They also have less self-confidence and eventually cannot perform his or her usual work. These victims need further assessment and may need compensation for life.

If the government were really serious of its ‘people first’ slogan, then it should look into the psycho-social assessment and treatment for the victims as well. No matter how many victims are there, it is not enough to treat the victims’ physical injuries alone.

The authorities concerned are also urged to call up and call back all the passengers involved in the accident to be assessed by qualified psychiatrists at risk of severe forms of PTSD.

This can be done in four ways:

  1. The police have details of the passengers and should start calling them
  2. The state Health Department to identify and designate a team comprises of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses and psychiatric assistant medical officers.
  3. Where applicable, compensation should be given in accordance with the law.
  4. Cost of operation for the entire process should be born by respective parties involved.

It is hoped that this can be done as soon as possible. The waiting time of over a year is far from any medical guideline in the world or Key Performance Index (KPI) under the so-called Government Transformation Programme.

Given the same facilities, all these necessary processes and procedures would have been automatically and responsibly carried out as part and parcel of the government policy under Pakatan Rakyat without fear or favour, or needing a public outcry before action is taken. It is a basic human right to have access to healthcare and justice for infringement of ones’ right to a safe and secure environment.

DR JOSEPH LEE is the medical and health bureau chief of Sabah DAP.

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