Tourism and Medical Care 24/7

Readers will remember the unnecessary death of Tom Seeto nearly a year ago. I publish this heart-breaking letter from his daughter Clarissa, out of respect for her and her family but also because of the very important message it contains for the Fiji Government, the Ministry of Heatlth and the Fiji tourism industry. Public health regulations should ensure that all airports and all hotels  provide at least basic services, and a qualified doctor should  always be on call at major hospitals. My question to Government and the Ministries of Health and Tourism is: What has been done since Tom Seeto's death to improve the situation that led to his untimely death while under your care?  Democracy is far less about votes and elections than it is about caring for people. See my earlier report on 27 September last year.    

Clarissa and Tom Seeto
Dear Crosbie,

It's been ten months since my father died. Its 3.36 am Sydney time and yet another sleepless night as I’m plagued by the pictures, moments of that day, never knowing or understanding how I came to lose my father in such tragic circumstances. Every day is ‘groundhog day’.  

I was rummaging through papers that I couldn’t bear to look at since that day and stumbled upon the contact details, scribbled on a vomit bag from the doctor aboard the flight that day. I contacted her, and my husband, my daughter and I went to meet her. 

She had asked Air Pacific for my details but they did not provide her with my information. Our meeting was extremely emotional as she has also suffered immensely from the events that occurred. The doctor informed me that she wrote a lengthy letter to Air Pacific and the airport about her disgust at the way the emergency was handled. 

Both the doctor and the paramedic were appalled by the lack of skills shown by the so called ‘nurses’ who boarded the plane. Like me, she has also been reliving every moment.

Suddenly, I felt human again. Fortunately, she had recorded timed medical accounts. As a result, I learned that we had not been waiting for 20 minutes for Dad to be evacuated as I had previously thought. WE HAD WAITED 45 MINUTES FOR DAD TO BE EVACUATED FROM AIR PACIFIC. 

She was informed that the reason ATS did not take Dad from the plane was because THERE WAS NO STRETCHER AVAILABLE TO REMOVE HIM. A gentleman in the seat in front of where Dad lay offered to carry him off and the nurses had said, “NO”.

I read the posts on your site and others and I have been most disturbed by comments people have made, in particular, “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” 
I am making ‘A BIG DEAL’ about my father’s death because it should never have happened. 
Raffles Gateway Hotel advertise 24 hour medical assistance as their service. Note what appears on Google. 

Fiji Hotel - Raffles website - Fiji‎Fiji Hotel - Raffles, Fiji, Fiji ... Hotel, Fiji. Stay at the ideally located Raffles Gateway Hotel and enjoy the privacy and comfort of your fully ... 24hr Medical Service ...

The morning my father fell ill, my daughter pointed to this statement in their hotel handbook. I showed it to the front desk manager and was told there was no doctor available. The hotel manager, Hari Singh, and the front desk manager, were fully aware of the circumstance but made no effort to visit the room and investigate the situation. 

Raffles Gateway hotel had a duty of care to us as their hotel guests. I have received a letter from Hari Singh that began with a condescending opening sentence which continued with a demeaning, belittling tone throughout the letter. There was no sincere offering of empathy or apologies. This was absolutely appalling behaviour from a person in a managerial position, considering the circumstances. Why has the Fiji Hotels Association not reprimanded Raffles? 
Nadi International Airport had 1.5 hours notice from the pilot that there was an emergency landing taking place with a sick passenger on board. How is it possible that NADI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT DOES NOT HAVE ANY EMERGENCY PROCEDURES IN PLACE? 

When we landed in Sydney on our return, there was a sick passenger on board. Medics boarded the plane within minutes of landing and the person was evacuated. Why was my Father's body dumped on a gurney and taken off on a food catering truck with no medical facilities? Why were we not allowed to go with my father? Why we were not escorted to the hospital? Nadi airport has offered no answers and no apologies. 
The Fijian Police involved lacked any type of professionalism. I am still in disbelief that an officer could not spell, “Tom”. That they thought not once but twice it was my husband who had died.  And why did my daughter have to fill out the police report, whilst the officer sat there texting on his mobile? 
I had just finished renovating my entire home for my father to move in with us on our return from Fiji. Now, I have to look at a room built for him that he will never use. He will never get to live in comfort surrounded by his only daughter and only grandchildren. He will never have the right to have died peacefully, gracefully and with dignity.

Instead, he died surrounded by strangers in the most tragic of circumstances and had his body treated in the most disrespectful, inhumane manner. People are dismissing this ‘incident’ because  my father was elderly. If this had happened to a child, then there would be a public out roar,  I’m sure. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. My father was a healthy 73 year old, looking forward to a new life in his new home. 
I have every right to know what my father died from. I have spent sleepless nights researching frantically, going through his symptoms on that flight trying to find answers, trying to understand how someone was warm, living, breathing, talking to me and then dead. 

 I have to live with the image of my father’s soft brown aged eyes streaming with tears as I’m promising I will take care of him and take him home. I ache with the knowledge that my daughter watched her grandfather dying in front of her very eyes, watching the CPR and hearing his ribs crack. I see the blood seeping from the autopsy wound on his head, the white lining of the coffin stained with blood, every time I close my eyes. 
As for the comment regarding the Australian High Commission, they were actually referring to the fact that they were aware of Fiji having poor emergency procedures in general not about my father’s case. They were not the only ones. Every government body I came into contact with was not surprised. 

I also learned that a 40 year old yachting couple were in Vuda when his wife collapsed on the deck. He called an ambulance for over an hour and was told they were coming and they never came. His wife died and he had to transport her deceased body to a hospital in a taxi. 

Another person was on holiday on one of the outer Islands when he cut himself swimming. He must have hit an artery and there was no medical help available and nobody knew how to apply pressure so he bled to death. 

A woman had an accident and was pulled from a wreckage of a car. On her return to Australia she had to have several more surgeries to rectify the surgery that she had in Fiji. Had emergency services cut her out of the car properly she would not have needed the surgery in the first place. 

I had been told this information as I had been explaining my story whilst in Fiji and this is what I was told by local people, and the Australian High Commission confirmed the stories they knew. 
My son cut his foot on coral whilst we were staying at a major resort on the Coral Coast the week before my Dad died. My son was bleeding profusely so I asked the resort if they could locate their first aid box. This took about 20 minutes to locate. When the person brought it to me, there wasn't even a band aid in it. The contents were minimal; most items were out of date. I told the manager that they really should keep a fully stocked first aid kit in a hotel of that size. 

At this time I thought, “Typical Fiji, the whole laid back attitude”. I thought it was kind of funny, once my sons bleeding had stopped. I realized later that even the simplest of emergency procedures were not practiced or seen as necessary. 
While I was still in Fiji, I went to the Fiji Times and met with a reporter, telling her my story. She refused to print the story because no one else would comment. Now, I would think that a plane making an emergency landing is pretty big news.
I’m angry at both the Fijian government and the Australian government. In Australia, Smart Traveller needs to be accurate in the information they have on their site. Actual information about medical and health facilities available in Fiji should be made clear so that people can make informed choices, after all many families travel there with small children each year. I noted that American Smart Traveller lists the hospitals available, distances etc.

Fiji is a huge tourist destination and yet medical facilities are poor. Why can’t the Fijian government introduce a levy for hotels/resorts of which there are many to give a percentage of their profits to invest in the hospitals and most definitely improving Nadi Hospital and Nadi/Suva morgue? Nadi morgue was like walking into a horror movie. Why allow a casino to be built when you don’t have appropriate health services?  Would this not also serve to help the local people, especially in remote areas.

Furthermore, Crosbie I appreciate your blog. It’s now 5.22 am and I’m tired.  So many things went wrong that day and all I want is answers. 

Kind regards

Clarissa Seeto


Anonymous said…
How tragic. Perhaps when the government finishes fighting corruption they can begin dealing with incompetence at all levels both in the private and public sectors
Anonymous said…
Croz, are you going mad? At a time when the heat is turned fully on by the unions trying to undermine Fiji's most important industry, you add fuel to the fire. Sure the death of Mr Seeto is tragic, but should we be not fair and report on all the lives that Fiji's health system has saved?
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Anonymous... Point taken, but this is no time to ignore incompetencies. Government must show it is really "changing mindsets", to use the PM's favourite words. When Government ministries are questioned in cases like this, they can — and should — always take advantage of the opportunity to say what they have done to remedy the situation and draw attention to all the related positive things they have done and are doing. Simply saying a situation is tragic is no response at all. Why? Because nothing will change with such a lame response. In this case, Government officers should have found out who was involved at each step of the tragedy and who was responsible. Those involved should have been spoken to about changing their ways; those responsible should have been punished and publicly humiliated. Too radical? Only if you are are not serious about change.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Crosbie for publishing it. If your hero Bainimarama had collapsed at the tarmac, the whole western division doctors, nurses, and ambulances would have been ordered by the military to rush to the dictator's aid - to save the moron who is largely responsible for such sorry tales. There is no accountability - I challenge Fiji Sun to reproduce the entire piece from Clarissa Seeto like the garbage they publish from Graham Davis, and paid by Qorvis via Fijian taxpayers money. Shame on Fiji!
Gatekeeper said…
@ Anonymous 1, 2, 3 and Crosbie:

This callous attitude (mindset)towards what is quite obviously a serial display of incompetence, lack of a Duty of Care, a failure to protect (the seriously ill) at an International Airport are part of what is now known as "The Fiji Factor". My mother-in-law died in not dissimilar circumstances back in 1972. An on-going chapter of disaster ending at the CWM where she herself had nursed in the mid-1940s. She died leaving us all feeling that so much more might have been done for her. These memories endure. This negligent conduct endures. But the difference is that in 2013 it a) Should not b) Should be intelligently remedied c)There are no excuses to be made;a full and thorough investigation should by now have resulted in an owning of the problems and an apology. Lastly: in reparation.

Yes, we are back to that most important term: REPARATION. We must understand that nothing less will suffice. Clarissa and our family will continue to believe (rightly) that we were ill-served and the enduring memories of panic, hope turning to horror at the indifference and the incompetence, the utter wastefulness of such a trauma if no good is to come out of it. We cannot learn from our mistakes if we refuse to analyse and to acknowledge them. Like constant coups d'etat, they shall be repeated Ad Infinitum long beyond our lifespan.

When shall we come to the basic understanding that hospitals are there 'to save lives'? That is what they and health professionals are for. The Tourism Industry expects a high standard of care in the Jet Set Towns of Nadi and in Sigatoka. Self-evident. If we are reverting to the Care of Travellers, then say so. Somalia's Mogadishu Hospital does its best, we learn: Under the direst of circumstances. Driven and dedicated staff. We are supposed to be making headway: yet we cannot even provide palliative care in their own homes for dying cancer patients (including children). We do not seem to appreciate that sexually-abused children and women may have contracted hiv/AIDs or STDs and need profound psychological as well as medical support to mend their damaged lives. Our imaginations need a good dusting off. Let us begin with the care of patients on Fiji Airways and other airlines at Nadi International Airport and cut the callous retorts. They are shameful and they do us all a profound disservice. We should take nothing but pride in the level of emergency medical care we provide.

Clarissa Seeto: we humbly apologise for these posts and we promise and aim to do better. Not only for visitors but also for all Fijians. As a sign of hope: the Sai clinic at Viseisei is a beacon of best practice and is funded by the European Union. We need replications of this standard of care in many other locations. But the International Airports and the adjacent hospitals, surely have the Highest Priority?
Vuniwai said…
May your dad rest in Peace.

Customer service in Fij is pretty bad and our emergency service is even worse. As far as I know - Fiji's ambulances are not adequately quipped or have paramedics on board.

The Fiji government should start by having a fully trained paramedic service able to resucitate, prolong a life and transfer to the nearest medical center. A caring and professional approach to family members is also needed .

Our ambulances are driven by usually kava drinking men, who when called probably put you life more at risk by their driving.

Paula said…
'Those responsible should have been punished and publicly humiliated..'How very well said Croz. The reality in Fiji at the moment is - how shall I say - a little bit different, perhaps. In a country where the leader of the military publicly states that he will stand by his man who have tortured people in their custody, in a place where a convicted killer calls himself Permanent Secretary, in a country where forward looking immunity for thuggery and murder is current legislation, in such a country people die and those responsible get consistently get away with it. Sad, but reality.
Wake up croz said…
Do you know what a military dictatorship is? The i-taukei military can do what it likes. Get used to it. This is how things will be for some time. Wash their feet and make them rich or get to the end of the line. And stop this stupid talk about democracy, unless you are spruiking the I-taukei military version?
Anonymous said…
English is the common language of the world, get used to it. The tragedy in regards to the Seeto family could have been different had the comprehension of the English language been better. I went do Denerau awhile ago and ordered two beer with a friend, the waiter brought a the bill for three beer and what did he do when I pointed it out...brought me a third beer......thankfully he was not a nurse or doctor
Anonymous said…
Yes, not only Fiji Sun but Graham Davis should reproduce the above article on his Grubsheet, for croz is very quick to reproduce Davis articles here
Anonymous said…
Heartbreaking story about the Seeto family, and about Fiji, which has been in consistent decline since 1987, the result of successive coups and corrupt, inefficient governments too busy lining pockets. Services, infrastructure are shot to pieces; like the infrastructure and general all-round decline, people, their attitudes and thinking are also in decline, dulled by kava, which rules the day...and night. The problems have been with us for years, instead of improving things are getting worse. Bainimarama admin inherited the problems, but despite all their promises, have done little to improve things; to busy collecting back pay, and with cocktails parties and overseas trips, to do any real work, including the AG Aiyaz Saiyad Khaiyum, whom we can't enough of in the TV and news. It is the same old story, despite all the big talk.
Anonymous said…
Fiji the way Croz wanted it.
farked up regime said…
totally farked!!
TIER TWO said…
Constant application of useless expletives does nothing practical nor purposeful to address these undoubted failings, signs of indifference and, ultimately evidence of professional misconduct in Governance. All are symptoms of endemic malaise and corruption of a High Order. All are evidence that taxpayers' money is being misspent with profligacy. Why are none (NOT ONE)of the recipients/beneficiaries of this mis-used money unprepared to throw in the towel? They think they can escape accountability for ever? Has Our Lady of Lourdes not made herself heard? As once she did, it is told, to Bernadette Soubirous, a poor and illerate French shepherd girl? Now St Bernadette. What are we thinking of? Have we no personal pride, no sense of self esteem? Or, are we sunk so vilely low in our greed that we have lost all sense of self worth and with it, are become less than human? Then this must be why we find the trafficking of our women and children of little or no consequence! There cannot be any other intelligent explanation - can there? FIJI - A Tier Two Trafficking nation? Hang your Heads in shame.
Priya Sinha said…
Really a fiji tourism is so interesting thanks for sharing this post ,,, it really a Awesome post.
Jason Stanley said…
I have read all the above and totally agree with your post. ,this is a fantastic Information about Tourism and Medical Care,Much thanks again. Fantastic.
Louis Gerard Saliot
Mukesh said…
Gerard Saliot has beautified the Fiji country into a paradise for the tourists. People visiting there can enjoy in the various aqua activities, see enamoring natural and man-made sights, and relax to rejuvenate the body from tiredness.

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