PHUKET OPINION: Saving lives is not an ‘internal affair’

PHUKET: The dismissal en masse of Patong-based volunteer rescue workers by the Kusoldharm Foundation once again raises the need for better standards in emergency medical rescue services – not just in Patong, but across all of Phuket.

As a privately administered organization, the Kusoldharm Foundation has the right to dismiss volunteers whose conduct is inappropriate, but to terminate the services of all 33 volunteers without offering any public explanation is somewhat surprising.

The Kusoldharm Foundation is Phuket’s largest and best-funded charity providing emergency services. (See story, this week’s issue of the Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers, click here to download the full newspaper.)

To be fired from a paid position is one thing, but to be told that services rendered free-of-charge will no longer be accepted is an affront, one that naturally raises questions about what, exactly, lies at the heart of the dispute between the organization and its former volunteers.

Both sides mention the possibility of a court case, but neither cares to reveal what charges might be laid – or against whom.

When the motivation for the actions of any group or individual come into question, it is generally a good idea to follow the money trail. Unfortunately, however, the Kusoldharm Foundation releases very little information about its management policies, decisions or finances.

Shedding some light on the issues involved is Kathu Police Superintendent Arayapan Pukbuakao, who charged the ex-volunteers with using their positions for their own personal benefit, such as by accepting payment for delivering patients to certain hospitals.

Col Arayapan also charged the ex-volunteers with having poor rescue skills that put accident victims at extra risk, tampering with evidence at accident scenes, and drug use.

He also says that valuables were often reported missing from accident scenes by foreign tourists who received assistance.

But there are always two sides to a story.

The director of Patong Hospital said he wasn’t aware of any problems arising from the volunteers’ work, while charges of involvement in illegal drug use have thus far been backed up with reference to a single case of marijuana possession.

There is no question that Kusoldharm will need to beef up its staff in Patong in time for the rapidly approaching high season, when the increase in the number of people on the ground, coupled with the various enjoyments they pursue, virtually guarantees a higher accident rate.

So recruiting and training new staff to meet the obvious and urgent need would be great – if it could be done in time.

The worst situation, one to be avoided at all costs, would be to allow two rival rescue groups to operate on the same turf. Patong has enough problems as it is, so violent confrontations between rival rescue services, all too frequent in other parts of Thailand, would not be welcome in Phuket.

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Legacy Phuket Gazette

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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