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A lifeguard at Karon tells tourists to leave the water after a drowning

Lies, Damn Lies and Phuket Drowning Statistics

Monday, September 6, 2010
News Analysis

PROMISING results are being achieved in saving lives on Phuket's roads and probably in the water, too. Latest statistics reflect safety campaigns on the roads and an improved beach lifeguard service.

However, there's just one problem. Phuketwan knows there was at least one death from drowning in July, a month that Phuket Public Health statistics say was free from drownings on and around Phuket.

Just-released Public Health stats also show five deaths on Phuket roads in July. This compares with 12 deaths in July 2009. Year on year, the total for January-July so far is 77 deaths compared to 94 in the same period last year.

And the July total for injuries on the roads was under 1000 for the third month in a row - a statistic that has not been seen previously in recent times.

A dramatic change in attitude and approach, spearheaded by Phuket City police superintendent Colonel Wanchai Eakporntip and his helmet-wearing campaign, is being credited with saving lives and preventing pain and suffering on Phuket.

Improvements may also be expected in August, which last year produced the horrifyingly large tally of 19 deaths on Phuket in one month.

Drownings on and around Phuket have also been reduced, with 20 deaths attributed to drowning to the end of July compared to 36 at the same stage last year. The 2009 figure included seven deaths in a dive-boat capsize.

According to Phuket Public Health statistics, there were no drownings on or around Phuket in July - the only drowning-free month recorded recently. However, Phuketwan is aware of at least one drowning in July that appears to have gone unrecorded.

July drowning victim Rumanian Gheorge Paulivc died in Bangkok Phuket Hospital after having been first taken from the sea off Karon beach to Patong Hospital. Two more drownings, one at Karon beach and another at neighboring Kata beach, took place soon after, on the same Sunday afternoon in early August.

Strangely, the deaths of Mr Paulivc and the two other tourists, Chao Dakun, 47, from China, and Ali Abdulaziz Salman Alsaeed, 24, from Bahrain, were omitted from a list of expat deaths produced for the Phuket governor's quarterly meeting with honorary consuls and embassy representatives last month.

Now Mr Paulivc's death fails to be recorded in the official island statistics for drownings in July.

Accurate statistics are essential so action can be taken, when required, to save lives in future. To have these three beach drownings of tourists go unrecorded could lead to the false impression that Karon and Kata beaches are safe places to swim at this time of the year.

If that lie was reflected, for whatever reason, in Phuket's official statistics, the spirits of those three drowned victims would rise up in horror. Those of us who are still alive and have a high regard for accurate statistics would also be entitled to be very unhappy, too.

A spokesperson for Phuket Public Health said today that their statistics were based on information supplied by Phuket's three public hospitals. It was up to the private hospitals to supply any additional information about other deaths, she said.

Phuketwan's view: That's simply not good enough. If statistics are to be believed, they have to be comprehensive, and they have to be accurate. It must surely be mandatory for all hospitals to report all deaths.

It's time Phuket Public Health and all of Phuket's hospitals, which claim to be up to international standards, accepted responsibility for keeping track of the island's fatalities.

To die while on holiday is shocking. To drown and have your death not even noted, not even recorded as a means of preventing the same thing happening to others, would be reprehensible.

*About 60 lifeguards are undergoing five days of intensive training at Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort this week. The third annual Phuket Lifesaving Carnival is being held at Loma Park in Patong on September 11.
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Comments

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I agree that lifeguard presence and performance has greatly improved since last year; however, there is still a long way to go. At Karon yesterday (by the lifeguard stand near the traffic circle), I witnessed a woman caught in a heavy rip being pulled out. Despite there being two lifeguards on duty not more than 30 yards away, neither of them noticed the woman until she shouted for help. This was largely due to the fact that they were chatting away under (not on) the stand (one with his back to the water). When they actually noticed her, the best response they could muster was to shout angrily at her to get out. When she finally made it out (after struggling on her own and shouting for help - the lifeguard never dipped a toe in the water), the lifeguard didn't go over and explain the dangers of swimming in a rip or tell her she should move down the beach to a safe area, rather he and the other lifeguard on duty clapped mockingly at her for making it out on her own - completely lacking in professionalism.
Granted, this was largely due to the woman's own stupidity for swimming where a red flag was blatantly signalling a rip current. I can understand the frustration lifeguards must feel when people choose to ignore sufficient warning and then find themselves in trouble. However, a lifeguard's job is to protect lives, even if the life being saved isn't the sharpest tool in the shed...

Posted by concerned at karon on September 7, 2010 08:58


Wednesday April 24, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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