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Life goes on at busy hospital hit by blast


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Life goes on at busy hospital hit by blast



Military officers act as security guards near patients at Phramongkutklao Hospital after last Monday's bombing. Around four to six officers were also seen taking turns checking visitors’ belongings as part of the elevated security measures.


Patients not concerned but staff more worried about work at Phramongkutklao.


BANGKOK: -- IT WAS another day at Phramongkutklao Hospital in the heart of Bangkok. Much like other state hospitals with affordable health services, Phramongkutklao’s 1,200 beds are always full with patients. 


Nurses and doctors are used to running or walking fast from one room to another. 


It has always been a rush at this military hospital, but now, things have had to slow down.


“Please show us your belongings before entering,” military officers from a medical unit said. They were on guard at a front gate of His Majesty the King’s 6th Cycle Birthday Anniversary Building, the hospital’s main 25-storey structure.


All the hustle stops at that point. People unzipped their bags for officers to have a thorough look. Everyone voluntarily complied with the request, fully aware of the fact the hospital was hit by a bomb last Monday, leaving 25 people injured.


The bomb went off in the building’s Wongsuwan Room, named after Deputy PM and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, on the third anniversary of the coup when the ruling junta seized power.


The Wongsuwan Room on the first floor has been shut since, with giant wood sheets and ad banners placed where the doors to the room used to be. Investigators were still working inside the room.


An initial probe indicated that a pipe-bomb, planted in a green vase, was placed there on in the early morning last Monday, a few hours before it exploded at around 11am.


It occurred at a prime time at the hospital, given the medicine department opens from 8am to noon from Monday to Saturday. An after-hours clinic is also available from 4pm to 7.30pm but its higher service costs mean most patients get drugs during the morning.


Despite the drama, the hospital was still busy during the day. Patients said they couldn’t care less about the risk of it happening again.


“I have appointments here every three months,” said Sangwan, an 84-year-old woman who waited in line to pay her medicine bill on Friday. She was accompanied by her daughter, who travelled 650 kilometres with her all the way from Sakon Nakhon.


“I had booked plane tickets much earlier before the bomb happened, so there was no going back,” Sangwan said. “Personally, I am worried about my allergy rather than whether the bomb might occur again. I believe security is lifted after an incident.”


Similar reasons were noted by 51-year-old Chanita and 70-year-old Aumpai from Chanthaburi, who visited Phramogkutklao for the first time to undergo a mammography.


“Our doctors assigned us specifically to this hospital,” Chanita said. “Military officers seem to have put on more guards after the bombing so we’re not worried.”


A military officer in her forties from Lop Buri, introducing herself as Mam, joined the conversation. She said: “I have to come to get medicine for my mother. I am just ‘chill chill’ [easy] with this. I go on with daily life as usual.


“But it doesn’t mean that I think less of the bombing,” Mam said. “The officers in my province have condemned such an act. We become more vigilant, but at the same time, we proceed with our lives like normal.”


“How could they do such a thing to a hospital?” Aumpai said. “If this country is this messed up, the junta should stay for even longer.”


A 32-year-old man named Kay is a frequent visitor to the hospital. He was not sick but simply comes to take a break from duty at a nearby shop.


He took his time playing around with a phone, the same as he did when sitting a few dozen metres from the Wongsuwan Room right when the bomb went off.


“It sounded like some sort of electrical blast,” he said. “I was immediately told that it was an air conditioner that blew up, so I wasn’t shocked.” 


After learning the facts, however, Kay still maintains his routine at Phramongkutklao, saying he trusted the security guards. “Yes, I saw the news that many CCTVs cameras were broken. But I think it’s just a technique to lure culprits,” Kay said.


However, routine workers at the hospital had a different attitude.


“I’m kind of afraid of future threats. But what else can I do?” said Wit, one of eight cleaners who was on duty on the first floor. “Even on the day of the incident, we remained at work. We are also told to keep watch for any possible irregularity in the hospital.


“It’s not our place to demand anything,” said a chief of patient care-givers, also in charge of cooperation with security guards at the hospital. “All we can do is elevate security measures – we set up guidelines on how to inspect people in general and how to report anyone suspect.


A 23-year-old medical intern said: “I only have enough time to care for my patients. Everything has to go on and there’s nothing but my medical work that I can do. I have to trust security will lift in the |hospital.”


Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30316568


-- © Copyright The Nation 2017-05-29


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