MADINA – Physically challenged patients from the Tabuk Rehabilitation Center endured a horrific 10-hour journey to Madinah Wednesday. Traveling in a convoy of nine buses – two carrying males and seven females, the vehicles had no seats or air-conditioning.
A reporter from Al-Madinah newspaper went inside the buses when they finally arrived in Madinah and was shocked to discover the passengers were lying down on the mattresses with flies all over them. They were not even provided with sheets to protect them against flies.
Sources told Al-Madinah newspaper that the buses only stopped once at a rest area on the journey. The rehabilitation center’s senior officials tried to keep the arrival time of the buses secret because they did not want the media to know anything about it.
Asad Al-Shareef, director of Tabuk Rehabilitation Center, gave contradicting answers. He claimed that all disabled persons suffering from complicated cases would be transported by air, but in reality they were all transported by land.
Al-Shareef defended the decision by saying they could not find suitable air reservations. He also said that the female employees who had to accompany the disabled passengers were non-Muslims and hence it would not have been possible for them to make the journey on a plane destined for Madinah.
Sharifa Khurais, director of Madinah Rehabilitation Center, said she received 147 cases from Tabuk center and the last group of disabled patients arrived on Wednesday. All cases were confirmed stable, she added.
The Ministry of Social Affairs announced on its official website that it would like to rent a building in a new location for the Tabuk Rehabilitation Center. The current building is in a dilapidated condition even though it was built just 18 months ago.
Ibrahim Al-Majalli, assistant undersecretary of social care at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told Al-Madina newspaper that the contractor and engineering company who built the Tabuk Rehabilitation Center will be held responsible for the defects in the building.
He also said the disabled persons who have just been transferred to Madinah will be returned to Tabuk as soon as the ministry finds a suitable building for them. – SG