We have stories to tell

THE elevator or lift began its journey at 3.50am with three persons inside. By the time it reached its destination at 4.45am, there were not three but four persons coming out from it.

It was in the wee hours of October 7 that first-time mother-to-be Zuraidah Naski, 18, accompanied by two nurses, was making her way to the delivery ward on the fourth floor of the Sarawak General Hospital when the lift shuddered to a halt.

Trapped inside the lift while waiting for rescue to arrive, Zuraidah gave birth to a baby boy.

According to newspaper reports, the heroes of the ordeal were the members of the State Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) who were summoned to the scene, and an unknown maintenance worker who used a designated key to open the door of the malfunctioning lift.

The proud Bomba personnel who paid a visit to the new mother and her baby were featured in a news photo taken at the ward.

It was a happy story – and as reported, mother and child were both given a clean bill of health after a check-over at the ward.

Elevators or lifts do break down and babies born in faulty lifts are not exactly breaking news. I read some years back that a baby named Thomas was also born in a faulty lift at the North Manchester General Hospital in the UK.

In another incident also in the UK, a baby girl was born under similar circumstances when the mother and her partner and three paramedics got stuck in the lift of an apartment. The parents named the baby Ella – as bitter-sweet memory of their infant’s birth in an elevator.

Both ‘elevator’ babies, Thomas and Ella, sure have stories to tell about their miraculous births – an unusual but nonetheless safe delivery for them inside a defective lift.

There are stories to tell as well about the lifts at SGH which made the headlines of late albeit for the wrong reasons.

According to Assistant Minister for Public Health Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, the six lifts at the hospital were overused, resulting in breakdowns from time to time.

He said the company responsible for maintaining the lifts should be aware of the problem and carry out servicing on a regular basis.

However, Minister of Local Government Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian chose to name the hospital director over the October 7 incident.

He said the hospital director should have been aware the lifts had been breaking down quite often due to overuse, and as such, there was a constant need to ensure the facilities were in good working condition.

“I mean this kind of thing should not have happened – the director of the hospital must at all times make sure these facilities (lifts) are in good working condition,” he was quoted as saying.

No doubt, the hospital director is responsible for the administration of the hospital but without the approval of his big bosses to his recommendation for a change of lifts and  without any say over the performances of  the government-appointed contractors, even the best director would find it hard to perform.

Another lawmaker See Chee How had this to say: “It’s to my knowledge that the Health Department has for a long time made numerous requests for the aged lifts at SGH to be replaced. However, allocations from the Ministry of Health have always been for repairs only.

“When all the six lifts were down at the beginning of this year, the Federal government gave an allocation – again for repairs.”

He added: “Our country is rich but we are let down by poor governance. The expose of the corruption case, involving RM3.3 billion in Sabah this week, has laid bare the allegedly serious misadministration and misappropriation of public funds by the federal government.”

A government hospital doctor told me there was also a need for change in some aspects of the local culture.

“People, including hospital staff and visitors, are (often) reluctant to use the stairs even though it’s just one floor. They prefer to fight for the lifts with patients. When the lifts are full, they are also reluctant to give way to patients.”

He also noted it was important to act with ‘anticipatory awareness,’ considering the overused hospital lifts, especially the old ones, were potentially a risk.

“Hospital personnel who escort patients often use the lifts to go up and down, regardless of whether they are going in the correct direction. This exposes patients to unnecessary risks. Their concern is if Idon’t get in now, I won’t be able to get into the next lift because there will be too many people.”

According to See, the government should be able to allocate funds for the betterment of healthcare services in Sarawak.

So I would suggest for Dr Sim who has, on many occasions, hinted he has direct access to MO1 and other key figures over the allocation of funds for healthcare services in the state, to arrange to  install new lifts in hospitals that need them urgently and also to replace many of the old and faulty hospital equipment.

It is a joy to hear amazing stories of miraculous births such as those of babies like Ella and Thomas or probably even Otis at SGH who were all stranded inside faulty lifts when they came in to the world. But what have not been told are the agonies and fears those stuck in the lifts have gone through.

For me, the best story was told by a doctor friend who commended the two nurses who were with Zuraidah Naski when their lift went bust, on a job well done.

“It’s not easy when one is trapped in the lift, a strange place from the usual environment. They not only have to deal with their own emotions and fears but also the need to support the mother and the baby,” he said.

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