The recent announcement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) – to distribute 500 ambulances from an allocation of RM400 million to hospitals and health clinics – has shocked many. The Sabah Pakatan Harapan Youth secretariat has urged the MOH to disclose the actual expenditure on the ambulances.

Hefty allocation equivalent to cost of luxury cars

Razeef Rakimin, the secretariat’s secretary, relayed the party’s shock after the announcement quoted such an extravagant sum. In addition, the party threatened to lodge a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the issue if it failed to get a satisfactory explanation.

Deciphering the allotment, Razeef said the cost of each ambulance would translate to RM800,000. This is equivalent to the cost of a luxury car, such as a Lamborghini, Ferrari or Maserati.

In comparison, the government set aside RM18 million to purchase 90 ambulances in 2014, he explained. This meant RM200,000 was spent per ambulance. Razeef elaborated that “It’s unthinkable how the cost of an ambulance could now increase by four times. The cost of one is less than RM150,000.”

Razeef also added that following much prodding, a new figure was provided by the MOH. MOH’s Secretary-General, Dr Chen Chaw Min issued a statement detailing the actual allocation of RM225.2 million (or RM450,400 per ambulance).

Razeef also questioned whether the new cost estimate was merely provided to calm the public. He added, “The people are fed up with the government’s conflicting statements. Pro-government quarters condemn us saying we spread fake news; but the information we obtained was from pro-government media such as, Sinar Harian, Harian Metro and Bernama.

SJAM representative quotes RM100,000 as the typical cost

Even with the new sum provided by the Secretary-General, a former ambulance service chief condemned the hefty amount.

Dr Low Bin Tick a former St John Ambulance Malaysia’s (SJAM) commander-in-chief told reporters that a typical ambulance usually costs approximately RM100,000. He added that the more advanced bariatric ambulances could cost up to RM1 million.

Low expressed that ambulance drivers refused to undergo life-saving training as they were only registered as drivers. “This is because they are not given extra allowances to learn new skills and work as first responders,” he explained. Typically, a medical assistant accompanies the ambulance driver when responding to an emergency call.

More expensive variations of bariatric ambulances allow for the transportation of overweight patients. Low elaborated, “These ambulances cost almost RM1 million. They can hold patients up to 350kg.”

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said that the 500 new ambulances will be distributed to hospitals around Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor, as well as hospitals and clinics in Sabah and Sarawak. The new fleet would be made up of wide and narrow-bodied vehicles for varying situations. MIMS

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