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. Subramanian said the ministry will also speak to its lawyers on possible legal action as the allegations made against the Malaysian health system has hurt the country's image, Berita Harian Malaysia quoted him as saying on Saturday (Sept 2).
"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 adding.
Singaporean Justinian Tan, 24, was in Johor Baru with Mr Joshua De Rozario and four other friends from their primary school for supper on August 24 when the accounting student of private school Kaplan was hit by a car.
Mr Tan sustained severe injuries, and was sent to the Sultan Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru. He was there for about five hours before he was transferred to Singapore General Hospital.
On Aug 30, he died 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 (Sept 1), Malaysia's Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement noted that after Mr Tan sustained injuries, an emergency call was made at 2.57am, following which an ambulance was dispatched at 2.59am and reached the spot of the accident at 3.10am.
Subsequently, the ambulance departed from the scene with the patient at 3.15am.
Datuk Dr Noor Hisham said this was a timely response, with a despatch time of two minutes and a response time of 13 minutes as recorded in the hospital's log.
Subsequently, Mr Tan was admitted to the "Red Zone" at the Emergency Department of the hospital. Emergency treatment under an "Advanced Trauma Life Support" protocol was followed, which had already been initiated by the ambulance team.
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".
Mr De Rozario, 25, responding to the statement on Friday, 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."
According to The Star, Johor's police arrested the hit-and-run driver, who is in his 30s, on Friday (Sept 1) afternoon. He has been released on bail.
"The suspect was released today following the necessary investigations. We will complete the investigation under the Road Transport Act and submit the papers to the deputy public prosecutor's office for further action," Johor police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd said when contacted by The Star on Saturday.