The Health Ministry of Malaysia believes that recent cases where ambulances lacked proper equipment and responded late - which led to the death of two men from June to August - are "isolated cases" but have agreed to warrant further investigation.

A recent viral post reports the death of a man in Subang Jaya seven weeks ago after an ambulance took 35 minutes to arrive, following an emergency call complaining of chest pains and breathing difficulties. Upon arrival, no oxygen tank was present, responders arrived from a hospital further than the one requested and paramedics were believed to be nonchalant.

The account on social media, was made by Syahiza Radzi, the neighbour of the deceased, detailed the incident as a promise to his widow to "raise awareness of the (dismal) reality of emergency services in Malaysia."

Unequipped ambulance and ill-prepared paramedics

"When the ambulance arrived, it didn't even have its sirens on. They didn't call or even ring the doorbell to let her (the wife of the deceased) know it was there," the post said. It was only after the wife of the deceased wondered where the ambulance was, that she went onto the street and found it.

"And when she frantically went to them, desperate for them to help her husband, they leisurely told her she had to back her car out of the driveway first, before they could do anything. She didn't argue," Radzi explains.

The post continues to detail how the ambulance was not equipped with an oxygen tank - despite the wife specifically requesting for one as her husband could not breathe and was likely to be having a severe asthma attack - because "Oxygen tank tu berat, kak." (“The oxygen tank is heavy.”). The paramedics continued the procedure leisurely and were deemed to be incompetent as they did not perform CPR or manual breathing assistance.

A total of three hospitals were involved in this tragic affair. The emergency operator located in Hospital Kuala Lumpur was told to request for an ambulance from Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SHMC) as it was the nearest hospital but SJMC claims to have never gotten the call. The HKL operator instead called an ambulance from PPUM.

"And when they went through dispatch records, it had taken the operator 7 minutes, from receiving an emergency call, to actually contacting a hospital for an ambulance. The grand total number of calls that operator got requesting an ambulance that specific day? - One," Radzi explains exasperatedly.

MOH: Investigations to be launched for the two "isolated cases"

Earlier in September, reports surfaced about a traffic accident victim who was killed while being transported in an ambulance to Jelebu Hospital in Negeri Sembilan, after he was thrown off his stretcher twice as he was not properly fastened. His immediate family also reported that the ambulance arrived after 20 minutes.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Hilmi Yahaya responded that the two cases were "isolated cases" and the Ministry would probe into the incidents.

“Normally our response time, we keep it to 15 minutes. They must come. So these are isolated cases I believe, details of which I don’t know. We will have to find out more,” he said.

In June, the Ministry announced a project in collaboration with St John Ambulance Malaysia and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society to station equipped ambulances at toll plazas and other hotspots to rush to the injured in a timely manner.

It claimed that the project would cut the response time to 15 minutes or less. The initiative was previously introduced at major hospitals within the Klang Valley region in 2014 and has since then been extended to Malacca and Penang.

Prior to that, between 2010 and 2013, the Ministry has acknowledged that numerous complaints were filed, stating that ambulances took up to 45 minutes to arrive to the site. MIMS

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