SINGAPORE - The Mount Elizabeth Hospital's 24-hour accident and emergency (A&E) department is open to all patients, regardless of who they are, and the hospital will dispatch staff to attend to emergencies via its ambulance service, said its chief executive Noel Yeo, in response to criticisms over the Lucky Plaza accident.
In a Facebook post on Monday (Dec 30), Dr Yeo said the hospital's A&E team would have responded immediately had it been activated or informed of the incident on Sunday.
He said it learnt later from news reports that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was activated and had arrived to attend to the casualties.
Six Filipino domestic workers were gathered on a pavement along Nutmeg Road behind Lucky Plaza for early celebrations ahead of the New Year when a black Honda turned towards them, mounted a kerb, hit the group and crashed through a pavement railing and plunged several metres.
The SCDF on Sunday had said it received a call at about 5pm requesting assistance at 304 Orchard Road, and dispatched five ambulances to take the six casualties to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) where two later died from injuries.
The move had triggered questions among readers, with several posting comments on The Straits Times' Facebook page asking why the casualties were not taken to the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, located across from the accident scene.
In his Facebook post, Dr Yeo said its hospital and ambulance services are not part of the SCDF's list of medical providers, which means that the hospital will not be activated by the SCDF even if such an incident is within close proximity.
"While the hospital is capable of treating emergencies, it is not set up like the restructured hospitals for severe traumatic conditions, which include multiple trauma and extensive burns," he added.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and SCDF said that the Filipino victims of Sunday's accident were not taken to nearby Mount Elizabeth Hospital because it is not equipped to provide timely management for severe trauma patients.
They said in a joint statement that TTSH was the nearest hospital that is equipped to handle such an emergency.
They were replying to queries from The Straits Times on why SCDF had taken the six Filipino domestic helpers to TTSH instead of Mount Elizabeth Hospital which was less than 200m away from the accident scene.
MOH and SCDF explained that SCDF emergency ambulances take patients with severe trauma to the nearest accident and emergency department that is equipped with the necessary resources, equipment and specialist medical support to deal with such complexities of care.
In this case, TTSH was the nearest such hospital, not Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
“In addition, as part of pre-hospital medical care management, all SCDF emergency ambulances are equipped with the necessary medical equipment and manned by well-trained paramedics and crew that are capable of performing resuscitation on patients,” the authorities said
In an update on Monday night, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling said that two of the Filipino domestic workers who were injured in the car crash had been discharged.
She said in a Facebook post: "We're thankful that Ms Laila F Laudencia has since been discharged and Ms Demet L Limbauan has just been discharged from the hospital early this evening after a period of treatment."
Ms Laila is 44 years old, while Ms Demet is 37.
Another two - Ms Arceli P Nucos, 56, and Ms Egnal L Limbauan, 43 - "remain warded under the treatment and close eyes of doctors and nurses", she added.
Ms Low also expressed condolences to the families of Ms Abigail D Leste, 41, and Ms Arlyn P Nucos, 50, who had died from the impact of the accident. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them all."
Ms Arlyn and Ms Arceli are sisters, while Ms Egnal and Ms Demet are believed to be relatives.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Ms Low had visited the injured victims in the hospital earlier on Monday to "personally show our care and support, and to thank them for their hard work and contributions to Singapore".
Said Dr Balakrishnan in a Facebook post: "Singaporeans are shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the tragic loss of life and injuries to six Filipinos at Lucky Plaza yesterday. What was supposed to be a day of rest, fellowship and celebration turned into a tragedy."
Offering his condolences to the bereaved families, he added: "As we prepare to welcome the New Year with our families, it is timely to also remember the invaluable contributions of those who help in our households, provide care for our family members, and sacrifice so much in order to provide for their own families far away."