KLUANG • Malaysia's Health Ministry said it will file a formal complaint with Singapore over "very serious allegations" by an accident victim in Johor Baru last month that were reported by several Singapore media outlets.
Health Minister S. Subramaniam said yesterday that the ministry will also speak to its lawyers about possible legal action as the allegations made against the Malaysian health system have hurt the country's image, Berita Harian Malaysia quoted him as saying.
"The letter will be submitted to the Singapore High Commissioner in Malaysia as soon as possible. We will wait for Singapore's response and at the same time, discuss with the ministry's lawyers for the next course of action," Datuk Dr Subramaniam told reporters after an event in Kluang, Johor.
"These are very serious allegations as the Health Ministry has a principle that human life must be given the highest priority.
"This matter has gone overboard. It not only gives a negative impact on us, but also demoralises and demotivates public healthcare staff who work hard and are dedicated in saving lives," he was reported as saying.
Singaporean Justinian Tan, 24, was in Johor Baru with Mr Joshua De Rozario and four other friends from their primary school for supper on Aug 24 when Mr Tan was hit by a car.
The accounting student at private school Kaplan suffered severe injuries and was sent to Sultan Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru. He was there for about five hours before he was transferred to the Singapore General Hospital.
On Aug 30, he died at around 12.30am when he was taken off life support.
Mr De Rozario later complained about the ordeal to Singapore media, alleging that the ambulance took a long time to arrive at the accident scene.
He claimed that at the JB hospital, they were asked to pay RM1,350 (S$429) each before its staff could start giving them treatment.
In refuting the account on Friday, Malaysian director-general of health Noor Hisham Abdullah noted in a statement that after Mr Tan was hit, an emergency call was made at 2.57am, following which an ambulance was dispatched at 2.59am and arrived at the accident scene at 3.10am.
The ambulance left the scene with the patient at 3.15am. Datuk Dr Noor Hisham said this was a timely response.
No deposits were asked from those present until Mr Tan's family turned up later, the statement said, "but it is important to note that the emergency imaging and treatments required were not withheld or delayed".
Responding to the statement on Friday, Mr De Rozario, 25, said: "When the accident happened, a lot of things were going on at once, so the wait for help to come felt really long then. I thought it took 30 minutes but their logs said differently."
He said there could have been miscommunication at the hospital as the staff "were speaking in Malay and we were speaking in English and we had difficulties communicating".
Johor police said yesterday that the driver in the hit-and-run accident, who was arrested on Friday, has been released on bail. He is in his 30s, said Johor police chief Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd, according to The Star newspaper.