A WESTERN Australian business has emerged as one of the largely unsung heroes of last year’s Bali bombing tragedy.
Prime Minister John Howard visited the Bali International Medical Centre during last weekend’s visit to Bali for the first anniversary memorial services and presented Order of Australia Medals to centre staff member – New Zealand-born nurse Stephanie Breen.
The Australia Indonesia Business Council is also planning a function to pay tribute to the work done by the centre to treat victims of the bombing.
That function is likely to be held next month.
AIBC WA president Ross Taylor said he felt the centre’s role in the aftermath of the tragedy had been overlooked.
“I thought they weren’t recognised for what they did,” he said.
“I don’t think a lot of people realised that the ambulances came from the centre and not the main hospitals on Bali.”
The Bali International Medical Centre was set up in 1998 by St John of God Healthcare Subiaco CEO Neale Fong and business partner Craig Beverage to provide Western standard care.
Health industry experts said the clinic had been a very lucrative proposition because it was the only one offering Western-style care in Bali.
The common language of the centre is English, although there are translators available who speak German, Dutch, Japanese, French, and Indonesian.
It also has an ambulance service and an evacuation service for sick or injured travellers.
On the night of October 12 2002 the centre became a focal point for many of the bombing’s survivors – taking in about 70 cases – as it was the closest medical clinic to the blasts at Paddy’s Bar and the Sari Club. Its three ambulances also played a crucial role in ferrying the injured to medical assistance.
Dr Fong said all of the centre’s staff had been called in to help deal with the bombing casualties.
“We dealt with about 70 cases on the night and then had scores of people coming in subsequent to the event for treatment and follow-up first aid management,” he said.
“We hosted grief counsellors there for the survivors still in Bali.”
Dr Fong said there had been thoughts of closing the centre down following the Bali bombings due to the expected drop off in the tourist trade.
“We had 80 staff before the bombings and we still have that now,” he said. “We had to cut back everyone’s hours but we’ve slowly been able to increase them.”
The centre relies heavily on the tourist trade for its income and, as expected, that trade declined dramatically in the weeks immediately after the bombings.
Mr Fong said tourist numbers to Bali had bounced back quite quickly after the bombings before being stymied by the other travel-affecting factors such as SARS, the war in Iraq and the Marriott Hotel blast in Jakarta.
The Federal Government still has strong travel warnings in place advising against travel to Indonesia.
Mr Taylor said the travel warnings were causing some confusion with Indonesians.
“They can’t work out why the Australian Government is warning people against coming here and then John Howard brings 400 people over for the anniversary,” he said.
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