Malaysia's Health Ministry has denied reports that a hospital threatened to deny treatment to a Singaporean man in a hit-and-run accident in Johor Baru if payment was not made first.
Mr Justinian Tan, 24, was in JB with Mr Joshua De Rozario and four other friends from their primary school for supper on Aug 25 when the accounting student of private school Kaplan was hit by a car.
Mr Tan suffered severe injuries and was admitted to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in JB. He was later transferred to Singapore General Hospital, where he died on Aug 30 after being taken off life support.
Mr De Rozario later spoke to several news outlets in Singapore, including The Independent, Today and Lianhe Zaobao, about the accident and said that the ambulance took a long time to arrive at the accident scene and that the hospital had demanded payment before treating Mr Tan and another friend who was also hurt in the accident.
He said they were asked to pay RM1,350 (S$430) before the staff could start treatment.
In refuting the account, Malaysia's Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement yesterday that the emergency call was made at 2.57am and an ambulance was dispatched at 2.59am. The ambulance reached the accident spot at 3.10am, according to its log. And it departed the scene with the patient at 3.15am.
Emergency treatment under an "Advanced Trauma Life Support" protocol was administered, continuing what was initiated by the ambulance team.
The hospital's emergency department also initiated the necessary imaging protocol and treatment, and referral to the relevant team "in a very timely and professional manner, without asking for any deposit since this was an emergency case", Datuk Noor Hisham said.
He said this was in line with the ministry's 2015 policy regarding deposit payment for foreigners in its hospitals.
He said that it was only when Mr Tan's family members arrived that they were requested to make a deposit payment, "but it is important to note that the emergency imaging and treatments required were not withheld or delayed".
But Mr Tan's family members opted for "discharge at own risk" and arranged for his admission to a hospital in Singapore, he added.
Mr De Rozario, 25, responding to the ministry statement yesterday, 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 Malay and we were speaking English and we had difficulties communicating".
"So many of us go to JB just for supper or shopping and we don't actually know what to do when something happens there," he told The Straits Times. "That's the point we want to convey. It's not about wanting to get revenge, because that is not going to bring Justinian back. We want to move on."
Johor's traffic police chief, Superintendent Dzulkhairi Mukhtar, told The Straits Times that the hit-and-run driver, who is in his 50s, has been identified after he made a police report. He will be called in "very soon" to have his statement recorded.
The Star reported yesterday that Malaysia's Health Ministry was considering legal action against "the online news portal", which the paper identified as The Independent.
"The allegations reported on the online news portal were untrue and disappointing as they have marred the hospital's image," Health Minister S. Subramaniam told reporters yesterday. "Only after putting that up online, they wanted to get clarification from us but by then, it was too late," he added.
•Additional reporting by Sue-Ann Tan