Overwhelmed medical staff did their best – Senior Doctor tells COI

Captain Learie Barclay before the COI

“The airstrip was lighted by cars. There were multiple cars…who put on their headlights so the plane could see how to land. There was lots of activity on the airstrip itself… There were two other aircraft on the ground and we were trying to acquire a vehicle to take us to the Mahdia hospital. The first vehicle I approached was a Police vehicle and the driver offered to take us over (Mahdia Hospital),” he said.

Upon his arrival in Mahdia, Dr Rajkumar told the Commission, which is chaired by Major General (Ret’d) Joe Singh, that he was between the hospital and the airstrip, where he assessed the victims.

Based on their conditions, some of the students were evacuated to the city while others remained at the Mahdia hospital. And while only some suffered burns, there were others who were treated for smoke inhalation.

Dr Rajkumar further pointed out that the situation on the ground was impacted due to space constraints.

He told the Commission that there were a number of girls, who were not injured but were “cramped” in a room since they had nowhere to stay. This, he said impacted the response of the medical team.

“There were about 10 to 12 students in a room and there were people going in and checking on them that did not need to be there. They had no injuries. The problem was they were brought to the hospital, their dorm was burnt down. They had nowhere to go sleep, they had no clothing, nothing. So that was a very stressful event for them,” Dr Rajkumar said.

“To have them in an environment where patient care was happening actively was impacting them as well as the function of the medical staff,” he added.

As such, Dr Rajkumar said he intervened and luckily, there was a COVID center in the hospital compound which was not in use at the time and measures were put in place to accommodate the displaced girls there.

A similar account was provided by Captain Learie Barclay who told the Commission that the chaos on the ground did not deter him or other first responders.

Public hearings into the CoI continued on Friday afternoon.