By Terry Xu
The second hearing of the coroner’s inquiry for the death of National Serviceman Private (Pte) Ganesh Pillay Magindren took place at the State Court on Thursday last week.
Pte Ganesh, 23 years old was found dead at the bottom of Sengkang condominium where he lived at on 5th July. He had been suffering from schizophrenia and had enlisted as a national serviceman in the Singapore armed forces on 9th October 2012.
Dr. Mogilan, who was then the medical officer at Khatib Camp, pointed out to the State Coroner, Mr Imran Abdul Hamid that there were no documents handed over from Kranji camp, the previous unit of Pte Ganesh to the unit’s medical centre to alert them of the psychiatric condition of the serviceman. However it was noted that no handover was required as all information was supposed to be digitized and accessible via the computer system.
It was only after an initial visit to the medical centre by Pte Ganesh on 29th November that made him aware of his medical condition by accessing Pte Ganesh’s information via the electronic medical system.
When asked why he did not inform the officer of Pte Ganesh, Captain (Capt) Jessie Goh about his condition, Dr. Mogilan replied that he did not inform the S1 of the unit nor the commander. He had assumed that the manpower officer would have known the PES status of servicemen posted to the unit and would be in the interest of the officer to have asked the reasons behind his downgrade.
When Pte Ganesh first arrived at his unit, Capt Goh arranged an informal interview with him and got to know that he was suffering from depression and was seeing a private doctor.
Capt Goh revealed to Mr. Imran that she did not pursue further on his condition and assumed the depression that he spoke of was just simply being sad.
Subsequently in his stay at the unit, Pte Ganesh was given extra duties as informal punishment for his tardiness and inability to handle daily chores. According to testimonies by Pte Ganesh’s fellow camp mate and the unit’s medical officer, he was treated harshly and was scolded in front of his camp mates.
Capt Jessie did not think much into how Pte Ganesh’s medical condition might have contributed into his inability to perform daily chores that he was then penalized for.
After reading the letter passed by Pte Ganesh from his private psychiatrist, Dr. Paul w. Ngui on 6th April. A letter was sent to SAF counselling centre (SCC) on 3rd May 2013 of the issues that Capt Goh was facing. She sent the letter as officers were encouraged to engage SCC when they have difficulties dealing with soldiers.
However, there was no reply from SCC even till the point of the death of Pte Ganesh with only an acknowledgement to say they have received her letter.
It was revealed at the hearing that a letter was given to the Medical Classification Centre (MCC) at the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) when Pte Ganesh went for the medical classification in January 2012. The letter was subsequently not passed to the units where Pte Ganesh was posted to.
Cpt Jessie Goh only got to see the letter at the hearing itself.
The letter wrote in detail the medical condition of Pte Ganesh and the circumstances of which he was admitted to hospital for his mental illness and Capt Goh said that it would have spurred her to send Pte Ganesh to see the unit’s Medical Officer.
It is revealed that in the army’s directive, servicemen will psychiatric problems will be generally posted in service vocation and that a letter will be sent by Personnel Management Centre (PMC) to inform the unit commander of the medical condition of the serviceman with the aim of understanding and managing the serviceman.
This was, not the manner of which Pte Ganesh was managed.
No letter was sent to the unit informing the unit commander or the officer in charge of Pte Ganesh of his medical condition. It was only after Pte Ganesh’s visit to the Psychological Care Centre (PCC) on 3rd of July that a letter was sent on 4th July (1 day before Ganesh’s death) from Control of Personnel Center (CPC) informing Capt Jessie of his condition that she understood the seriousness of his issue.
That fateful day
When Pte Ganesh returned from a 7 day medical leave on 2nd July, he was given an increased dosage of medication by his attending psychiatrist – from one pill to three.
Cpt Goh said that it did not occur to her that Pte Ganesh’s condition was any worse as his father had told her that he was better,and she took his word for it.
On 4th July, she gave Pte Ganesh, 14 extras (weekend duties) as punishment for his tardiness which she felt was ok as he did not show any signs of grievances nor feedback that it was unfair.
When Pte Ganesh was given Attend C (medical leave) on 5th July, Cpt Goh drove Pte Ganesh back home instead of having him rest in his bunk.
Cpt Goh said she felt that he would rest better at home.
Later on the same day, Pte Ganesh fell to his death while being alone at home. He was found at the bottom of his condominium three hours after he fell.
The hearing for the coroner’s report will continue at State Court on this Tuesday afternoon.
See detailed report for testimonies of the witnesses
Captain Jessie Goh: “Symptoms seens as problems with adjusting with military life”
Dr. Mogilan: “Dangerous general assumptions to have”
Also read up Dr. Ang Yong Guan’s personal take over the incident. “Should male Singaporeans suffering from Schizophrenia serve national service?”