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Editorial

MRT3 madness

/ 05:28 AM November 19, 2017

You wonder what can happen next. On top of the almost-daily breakdowns afflicting MRT3 like a plague — the latest major incident being the detachment of a train car between stations that resulted in the offloading of passengers who then had to walk on the tracks to get to the next station — a passenger had her right arm severed when she fell into the gap between train cars.

If nothing else, the accident involving software engineer Angeline Fernando, 24, showed the lack of preparedness of MRT personnel for emergencies like hers.

The presence of medical intern Charlie Jandic saved the day, both for the unfortunate Fernando and the (by now utterly discredited) MRT management.

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On Nov. 14 Fernando was standing on the platform of the Ayala station when she suddenly felt dizzy and fell on the tracks between the second and third cars of a northbound train. The third car’s wheels subsequently rolled over her right arm, severing it below the armpit.

Fernando’s parents would later say that she had had dizzy spells in the past, particularly when she was in a crowd.

Providentially, standing in the crowd waiting for a train was Jandic, a medical intern at the Chinese General Hospital. It was literally an “Is there a doctor in the house?” moment, and yes, there was Jandic, who swiftly ministered to Fernando.

She used a belt — volunteered by a Good Samaritan — as a tourniquet. She plied Fernando with questions to check if the latter had suffered a head injury.

She stayed on until the ambulance arrived, making sure that Fernando did not lapse into unconsciousness. Fernando was taken to Makati Medical Center where her condition was stabilized, and where her severed arm was later reattached.

Jandic has received praise from various quarters for her calmness and acumen in assisting Fernando. But she has deflected the praise, simply saying that “anyone with appropriate medical training would have done the same” in the same situation.

Her presence of mind, along with her refusal to bask in the glory of the moment, indicates that she will be an excellent physician: quick of mind and hand, empathetic, worthy of the Hippocratic oath.

Something also has to be said for the passengers who offered a belt, a cardigan, and generally helped out. Even in the current murderous atmosphere, there seems reason to hope.

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Still, in a Facebook post, passenger Celia Castillo said she had to tell the guards to find a doctor and call an ambulance. “Everyone was panicking,” she said. “No one in the staff had the courage to take the arm from the [tracks]. Please, MRT management, equip your people for this kind of situation.”

The Department of Transportation said it would investigate the incident and shoulder Fernando’s hospital bills. According to Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, the MRT staff is trained to respond properly in cases of emergency but that “at the time of the incident, there was no MRT staff on the platform” save for two security guards who, he said, did assist Fernando.

Also under investigation is the bizarre incident that occurred two days later: A northbound train was running in the underground section between the Ayala and Buendia stations when the third and last car suddenly got detached from the main train.

The passengers in the third car could only look on as their car came to a full stop and the rest of the train rolled away. Some 140 passengers had to disembark and walk the rest of the distance to the Ayala station.

Is MRT3 still safe to use? When asked if it might be time to halt MRT operations to check the trains’ safety, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said: “Now if there is a need to stop [operations], we know this would affect almost 500,000 commuters. But if we are to think about those who might be killed because of negligence, probably we might have to reconsider.”

As it happens, MRT3 trains are packed to the gills because the number of cars is no match to the more than 450,000 people riding it every day.

Yet the commuters come, enduring queues that snake down the steps and spill into the streets, as well as cars crowded to bursting. It’s a daily madness that Transportation Secretary Art Tugade and his minions would be horrified to experience, or even imagine.

Here then is the huge problem that is MRT3: damned if it continues to operate as is, and damned if it doesn’t.

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TAGS: Inquirer editorial, MRT-3, Public transportation
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