First-aiders at Pulau Ubin say formal treatment facility needed at island

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 15 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE – First aid is at hand for visitors to Pulau Ubin on public holidays, under a Singapore Red Cross (SRC) initiative that began on the island last July, as accidents involving cyclists remain a regular occurrence there.

As part of its First Aiders on Wheels programme, SRC first-aiders have been stationed at a temporary first-aid post in the National Parks Board (NParks) office on the island every public holiday since Hari Raya Puasa on July 17 last year.

The post is staffed by a team comprising volunteers and SRC staff, all of whom are certified in first aid.

They have tagged along when the police are called to help a casualty and have also joined NParks staff on patrols to “provide first aid to those in need”, said SRC secretary-general and CEO Benjamin William, in response to TODAY’s queries.

Last year, TODAY reported that NParks was considering the possibility of establishing a first-aid facility on the island. After reading the story, the agency decided to extend the programme — which started with the provision of first aid at East Coast Park in 2012 — to Pulau Ubin, Mr William said.

On the seven public holidays that the first-aiders had stationed themselves on Ubin thus far, they administered first aid to more than 60 casualties, with injuries including “multiple abrasions, head trauma, fractures and dislocations”, said Mr William.

Twenty per cent of them had injuries that required further medical treatment or evacuation by the Police Coast Guard to the mainland.

The humanitarian agency is exploring the possibility of providing the first-aid service on Pulau Ubin on Sundays as well.

Mr William noted that Ubin’s rugged terrain draws many cyclists to the island, as it “provides a sense of adventure”.

“There is, however, a certain degree of risk especially for those who are less familiar with the trails around the island,” he added.

The first-aid post responded to injuries every hour when volunteer Ivan Low, 22, was there last Hari Raya Puasa. The third-year medical student at the National University of Singapore recounted administering first aid to a cyclist in his 30s who suffered a “pretty bad head injury” and whose teeth had fallen off from the impact of the accident. The casualty was descending a slope, said Mr Low.

Fellow volunteer Adeline Tay, 19, found herself overwhelmed during her first scheduled volunteering stint during the SG50 public holiday on Aug 7 when she saw the extent of the injuries.

Some casualties had suspected head trauma and fractures, and “really bad” abrasions, and their injuries left her feeling “not confident enough to do first aid”, Ms Tay said.

However, she mustered up the courage and returned to Ubin to volunteer on Christmas, rendering first aid to two or three casualties, mostly with serious abrasions.

“It feels good to be able to help,” said the first-year chemical-technology student at ITE College East.

For Mr Low and Ms Tay, their encounters at the first-aid post have highlighted the need for a formal first-aid facility on Pulau Ubin.

“First aid has always been provided on a very ad hoc, informal basis by the islanders (and) bike providers … so there is a need for a formal first-aid facility (with) people who are trained (and) have the resources,” said Mr Low.

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