By Yankuba Jallow
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the then Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) has told the TRRC that they have failed the April 2000 victims in many aspects.
“As part of the system, we have failed and I cannot exonerate myself from it. We have failed the student victims,” Dr Mariatou Jallow said.
She addedd: “It is important that we have a democratic system where things will not be done haphazardly, where everyone will feel free and will do what they are supposed to do.”
The 65 – year – old medical doctor started her career as a medical practitioner in 1985. She has held the position of Minister of Health from November 2008 to October 2009 and she is now the CEO of the Sibanor health facility.
She said in April 2000, she was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RVH. She said her responsibilities included the running of day to day activities of the hospital; ensuring patients get their treatment, administrative function among others.
She said on the 10th April 2000, young students were brought suffering from serious injuries; there were all kind of distress.
“Some were having big open wounds. Those injuries were very severe,” she said.
She said the whole hospital was mobilized and the theatre was prepared. She added that those who needed blood transmission were provided with blood.
“When the doctors certified that a patient has died. The dead people were wheeled to the mortuary. There were 12 dead people from the Kombos and 2 from upcountry,” she said, adding that those who needed emergency operation were operated.
She admitted that there was a major failure on their side for not waiting so long to check whether there were signs of life in the victims.
She said the usual procedure of obtaining medical reports was through a request addressed to the CEO. She added that the former government gave her an instruction not to give those patients their medical reports.
“This was an unusual situation – we were given instruction not to allow patients to have those records. It was from the former President and it was not normal,” she said.
She indicated that she complied with the orders because of the situation was difficult.
“It was because we were not under a democracy that we have to take instructions from the State House. I have never taken instructions concerning the wellbeing of the patients, but administratively, I have to take those orders,” she said.
She told the Commission “I accept it was wrong.”
“Why did you comply with those unlawful orders?” asked Counsel Essa M. Faal.
“As I said it may be out of fear. Anything could have happened to me if I have disobeyed those instructions,” the witness responded.
“What was there that made you feel fear or afraid?” the Counsel asked.
“I feared Yahya Jammeh because I could have fallen in his wrong books; I could have been imprisoned or anything bad was possible,” she said, adding that “the situation was far from normal.”
She added that the instruction not to issue the medical reports was also passed to the records office. She admitted that the patients were denied their medical reports and records.
“The patients (student victims) were told their case was political and that was why they cannot get their medical records/reports from the hospital,” she said.
She said autopsies and a coroner’s inquest were conducted. She added that President Yahya Jammeh visited the hospital.
“We prepared the situation to show the former President Jammeh that everything was well when the situation was far from that. This was to appease the former President,” she said.
She said the reports that the doctors were giving former President Jammeh during his visit to the hospital wasn’t true.
“He (Jammeh) looked concern. The victims were not happy (with his visit). I remembered one of them refused to talk to him. I know they were not happy with him because the victims felt that he was responsible for what happened to them,” she said.
She said after that, a directive came from the State House that three of the patients be taken to Egypt for further treatment. She added that they referred them to Egypt for further treatment. She said she does not know whether the consent of the parents of the three was obtained before the minors were taken to Egypt. She said the funding was for one month.
“I don’t know how they managed to stay for three months. I have failed them. The government has failed them and the nation has failed them. I am indeed sorry,” she said, adding that “it was a system that has failed. We were living in an abnormal situation,” she said.
She said when they came from Egypt; she was given the instructed from the State House to take their medical reports from them. She said after taking their medical reports at the airport, it was submitted to the records office and it formed part of their medical record.
“I accepted that it was an unlawful order,” she said.
She asked for forgiveness from Sainey Senghore, Yusupha Mbye and one other person as well as all the April 2000 victims for their failures. She said in September 2001, she was relieved from her position and later joined President Jammeh’s treatment programme. She said former President Jammeh was claiming to be a curer of HIV/AIDS, Asthma and Tuberculosis.
She said the former President’s HIV/AIDS treatment was untrue. She will be called back to give her account of the Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS treatment programme by the Commission.