SINGAPORE — A migrant worker diagnosed with COVID-19, who was found dead at a staircase landing in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) earlier this year, had recorded two messages about ending his life around an hour before the act.
A coroner’s court heard on Thursday (24 September) that, in one of the videos, Alagu Periyakaruppan had stated that the doctors said he had the virus and that he did not wish to stay alive.
According to a transcription submitted to the court, Alagu added that he was ready to lose his life and nobody had to do anything with it. He added in the video that he made the recording with a sober mind and and signed it off with his name.
Removed window pane beside hospital bed
Police investigations showed that Alagu, 46, had been admitted five days before his incident ,after he complained of headache and fever. He had been admitted into KTPH after being diagnosed with COVID-19 following a swab test.
The court heard that, on 23 April, it was likely that Alagu – who has a family in India – had removed the window pane beside the bed he was warded at, and squeezed through the gap.
Before the act, he had likely placed the glass panel of the window on the floor beside his bed, and left his black sneakers beside the window, an investigation officer told the State Coroner.
These were found by a staff nurse who had been doing rounds at about 6.15am. The nurse had heard a thud coming from Alagu’s cubicle and made a check, thinking that a patient had fallen onto the floor.
She saw another patient, who had just woken and sat on his bed, but Alagu was not in his bed. Upon seeing the items left by the patient, she informed a colleague and conducted a search for Alagu, but to no avail. She had also opened up the window to peer out but could not see Alagu.
Alagu’s mobile phone was found on his bed, after attempts were made to contact him. A senior patient relation associate on duty was then notified.
Likely fell from 7th floor to 3rd floor
At around 7am, the associate found Alagu, dressed in his hospital gown, lying unresponsive in a supine position at the open air staircase landing at Level Three.
He immediately called for emergency medical assistance which attempted to resuscitate Alagu. No pulse or breathing was observed, and dried blood was seen around his mouth.
Despite resuscitation efforts, Alagu was pronounced dead at about 7.30am. Police were then notified.
Due to Alagu’s status as a COVID-19 patient, the staircase he was found at was sanitised before the police arrived. DNA swabs and fingerprints lifted on the window frame matched those of Alagu’s.
The two recordings, lasting 20 seconds and 27 seconds, were determined to have been made in the toilet of his ward.
The investigation officer said that it was possible that Alagu had used a metal hook, later found among his belongings in his bedside drawer, to remove the window pane. He could have then gone through the gap, measuring 28.7cm by 79.7cm, head first.
He likely fell from the seventh floor to the third floor.
Alagu had no known issues with his employment and had not made any complaints to his next of kin or colleagues. In fact, he had mentioned that he would be recovering in a few weeks time.
No exhibition of suicidal thought
A KTPH psychiatrist who headed a committee which investigated the incident found there was no lapse in clinical care. Alagu had not exhibited any suicidal thought, or behaviour and his act was not predictable or preventable. No medication that would induce depression of hallucination was administered to him during his hospital stay.
According to the staff who cared for Alagu, the worker was pleasant and helpful. He helped out during mealtimes by giving out meals to fellow patients, and had no behavioural problems.
During his time in the hospital, he did express worries about his financial future and his children in India, which was not uncommon among patients in similar situations.
Consultants who took care of Alagu said that he was making progress and had no complications. Alagu was actually on track to be transferred to a community isolation facility, said the KTPH psychiatrist.
During Thursday’s hearing, Alagu’s nephew Veerappan Meenakshi Sundaram requested for his uncle’s mobile phone to be returned, and his death certificate to be sent back to India.
Speaking through an interpreter, the nephew said, “The deceased had three children, the eldest studying Class 2 in Indian standard, second child in Class 7, and the youngest has yet to be admitted to school. The death certificate would also be helpful when it comes to insurance applications and claims.”
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said that findings into Alagu's death will be delivered on Friday.
If you have thoughts of suicide or are feeling distressed, you can call SOS' 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444. You can also email email@example.com.
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