Following the recent allegations of negligence by a hospital in Johor Bahru in dealing with a sensational fatal accident case, a Singaporean news portal has removed the initially published article dated 3 September 2017.

Socio-political site, The Independent Singapore (TISG), took down the article claiming that a Singaporean had died after a Malaysian hospital “demanded payment before treating him”. They also apologised “for the anguish and distress this incident has caused”.

Accident case followed by “baseless” accusations

On 25 August, 25-year-old Singaporean Justinian Tan and a friend – who were in Johor Bahru for supper with other friends – were injured in a hit-and-run accident. One of Tan’s friends in the group, Joshua De Rozario, has relayed to the media that the ambulance took half an hour to arrive at the scene.

He added that when they arrived at Johor's largest hospital, Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA), they were asked to pay RM2,700 (SGD860) upfront prior to conducting scans on both victims. The published article (on TISG) claimed that a communication breakdown between the hospital staff and the victim aggravated the already-dire situation.

He also alleged that an extra RM1,350 was requested for Tan's operation – however, the family wanted him to be transferred to Singapore General Hospital (SGH). This came after learning the brain surgery would be performed by a “medical officer” – and not a surgeon.

When arrived at SGH, Tan was pronounced brain dead and subsequently taken off life support on 30 August.

HSA – one of the nation’s best healthcare facilities

Malaysia refuted the allegations, and Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah issued a statement last Friday defending the Johor hospital’s services. He stated that the hospital's emergency department team initiated the necessary X-rays and scans, as well as treatment such as intubation “in a very timely and professional manner, without asking for any deposit, since this is an emergency case”.

He reiterated that the ambulance had responded in a “very timely” manner, with a “despatch time of two minutes and response time of 13 minutes”. Medical record logs further revealed that the ambulance departed with the patient in five minutes.

In addition, Noor Hisham commended the hospital – as a whole – for being one of Malaysia’s best healthcare facilities. He said, since its establishment in 1882, Hospital Sultanah Aminah has unfailingly provided professional treatment and trained numerous generations of healthcare professionals.

Highlighting the Emergency Department (ED) staff, he praised their outstanding responsiveness to critical medical cases despite their heavy caseloads.

“For instance, 97.6% of ambulance preparedness and dispatch for primary response were achieved within less than five minutes, and 67% of Priority I ambulance calls (critical emergency case) were responded within less than 15 minutes,” he elaborated.

Malaysian Health Ministers acknowledge and accept TISG’s apology

When accusations were spewing and the online news portal supposedly blocked Malaysian IP addresses from accessing the article, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam announced MOH’s plans to lodge a formal complaint to the Singapore government on dissatisfaction over the online news portal. The MOH said such accusation has tainted the country’s name and the reputation of its healthcare workers.

“The letter to the Singapore government will state our feelings and views on what was done by the (news) portal. After that, it is up to the Singapore government to take the necessary action,” remarked Subramaniam.

On the topic of a communication breakdown involving the Malay-speaking hospital staff, Subramaniam asserted that it should not be an excuse, as hospitals globally have been using their national language as the medium of communication. However, he noted that there is room for improvement moving forward.

A screenshot of the notice on The Independent Singapore’s website, which initially published a controversial article alleging flaws in the critical treatment administered to Tan by HSA.
A screenshot of the notice on The Independent Singapore’s website, which initially published a controversial article alleging flaws in the critical treatment administered to Tan by HSA.

Following TISG’s apology recently, Noor Hisham thanked all Malaysians who “supported and (stood) tall” with the MOH and said “our prompt response debunking fallacies (has) resulted in an otherwise arrogant Singaporean portal” retracting its post – which TISG initially defended.

Subramaniam said the MOH accepted the apology, which was posted on TISG’s website, with an open heart. MIMS

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