The Death of Mr Tom Seeto

Clarissa and Thomas Seeto
Lessons to be Learnt from Unnecessary Death of Tourist

The Fijian Government extends its deepest sympathy to Clarissa Seeto and her family for the tragic death of their father. No Fijian who hears her story can fail to be moved by her family's pain. – Elizabeth Powell, Permanent Secretary, Tourism.

This sad incident, in which Clarissa's father Tom died unnecessarily, illustrates only too vividly just how inefficient some services can be at critical times in Fiji. 

My account, written in the wake of last weekend's incidents concerning Fr Barr and Daniel Urai, is not to deter people thinking of visiting Fiji on holiday, but to illustrate a general lack of efficiencies, communications and backups, that unfortunately is “just Fiji” as is has been for far too long.

While these deficiencies  often cannot be blamed directly on Government, Government is ultimately responsible. Its campaign to stamp out endemic corruption needs to be extended to wiping out chronic inefficiencies, starting with a full enquiry into the causes of Mr Seeto's death

from the time when it was obvious 24-hour medical services were not available; to why the Raffles Front Desk Manager was so unhelpful; to Air Pacific's handling of the situation, to the 30-minute delay and the absence of an ambulance after the plane returned to Nadi; to Mr Seeto's body being“ dumped] on the gurney [as they] wheeled him off into the truck”; to the need for the stressed-out Seeto's to go though Customs; to why the Air Pacific Manager insisted on form-filling when he should have taken the the family to the hospital; to their shockingly insensitive reception at the hospital; to the inept police questioning; to the strange autopsy result (he had died of “emotional stress”); and to events at the morgue where Clarrisa found herself looking at her father's forehead, “ It was like he had no dignity ... they didn't even have the decency to put his forehead in the right spot.”

A Doctor comments
A well respected senior GP, asked to comment, said Tom Seeto would have survived, at least initially, if services were provided in the first instance, and was surprised they were not. Fiji, he said, is normally “ able to provide excellent medical services for any emergencies or non emergency to locals and visitors alike … A thorough independent inquiry/ investigation is warranted in this case and the stakeholders concerned should offer an unconditional apology to the Seeto family and of course the other side of the story should be made available.”

This particular case exposes our weaknesses which should not be allowed to be repeated. All the stakeholders concerned should be taken to task and a full enquiry is warranted. This has obviously caused considerable damage which should be corrected without delay.”

The doctor listed what should have happened:

• The receptionist at Raffles Gateway should have helped them find a doctor. There are several GP’s in Namaka, Martintar and Nadi Town who are available 24 hours for any services at any time.
• Air Pacific should have requested medical clearance from their doctor when clearly informed of the sickness. There must have been an incompetent or irresponsible attendant who allowed them to board the flight. 
• ATS likewise have doctors on call and someone should have been responsible enough to get medical clearance organized.
• Returning to Nadi Airport (costing  huge expenses and disruption) for an emergency on board, a sick and dying patient, should have alerted all authorities to organize themselves professionally to evacuate the patient speedily in an  ambulance to the nearest hospital with our local doctor. There can no excuses, suffice to add that all of the above is really shocking and pathetic
• Post mortem and stitching back was also reported as shocking and undignified which the Minister for Health should address with Lautoka Hospital.
• Every resort or hotel must be able to respond professionally for any medical care. They should have contingency plans to ensure this is available 24 hrs and I can assure all the proprietors that GP’s are always willing to provide services whenever needed especially here in Nadi, including ambulance services
• The 24-hour medical centre at Nadi Airport for AFL should have opened by now.  This would have solved all the problems and the opening of this centre should now be expedited.

A month has now passed. If government is concerned about inefficiencies and the lack of communications that it advanced as reasons for the Barr/Urai ferfuffle, why have we heard nothing about investigations into the unnecessary death of Tom Seeto?   Government could do worse than take a leaf out of Singapore's book and publicly name those responsible.

Clarissa, in the ABC interview cited in this article, also recalled the off-hand comment from the Australian High Commission.  It  happens all the time, they said (which it  doesn't) but I wonder whether Australians  ever  ask themselves  whether their country's  policies towards Fiji might have stripped Fiji of its middle and higher level competencies, leaving others, less able, to fill the gaps, with consequences only too apparent in recent incidents. 

--Crosbie Walsh


Gutter Press said…
Crosbie, you’re quite right to say that the Australian Commission’s comment that ‘it happens all the time’ was offhand and incorrect. I’d go further and say it was unnecessarily insulting since Fiji has a plethora of competent hotel, airline and medical professionals at all levels, some of whom are regionally respected.

However it was also unnecessary of you to complete your thought provoking article with a gratuitous reference to it possibly being as a result of Australia’s policies against Fiji. That’s no better than the anti coup lobby trying to make the military government seem responsible for every last problem that Fiji faces. Neither side’s argument is helpful

I doubt that the Australians do ask themselves if their policies have had the repercussions you’ve noted simply because middle and higher level competencies still exist in abundance throughout the hotel and airline industry and the medical profession.

If you really thought otherwise then you wouldn’t have called for an investigation into the matter since the reason for the tragedy would be self evident.
Rusi said…
I was wondering when this issue was going to be blamed as Australia's fault. No, australians do not wonder whether the policies 'towards Fiji might have stripped Fiji of its middle and higher level competencies' as the coup culture and fiji military is responsible for this. Do not get me started on the quality of talent that Aus gets from Fiji. Fiji is not exactly famous for turning out quality medico's. In fact i would go as far as to say Australians too are victims of the standards of dismal medical training and competency from Fijian institutions and their 'product'. Given their was a systematic failure at every level in this incident, perhaps you would be best addressing your observations to the military regime that has been in control of fiji for the past six years and are soooo quick to claim the good and soooo quick to disown the bad. Fijians have put up with this forever, if they are so unhappy, then deal with it. Aus has no obligation to Fiji, at all.Perhaps China can assist with 'another loan' to address the shortcomings.
Talei Dredre said…
In my adult memory, this is the first such incident, why are we making a big deal of it? It's not like, with all due respects, the dearly departed was not "of departing age". What is the big deal about. An uncle of ours departed while asleep last Thursday at the age of 74. When I asked his dear widow, my aunt, whether there is to be an autopsy, she smiled and said " No - it was time to go". So who decides the timely and untimeliness of departures? The issue to me here is that casual unthinking comment of "it happens all the time". That's the spontaneous commenting, in simple terms, slack-mouthedness, that people have to guard against. My sympathy is with the loved ones of the dearly departed - the Seeto family - but let them and let us NOT add to their misery by thinking for a moment that all of these was the fault of either the Australian or Fiji Government. Or that China could perhaps help. Good Grief Rusi - you are way off the mark there!
Rusi said…
I was being sarcastic....the Chinese are not known for their quietly generous nature.They would rather the fijian military bought arms from them.

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