KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — A national audit found that public hospital ambulances in the Klang Valley take up to 87 minutes to reach the incident site in critical emergencies.
The Auditor-General’s 2018 Report Series 1, which audited ambulance services for Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Klang (HTAR), Hospital Selayang, and Hospital Serdang said the Health Ministry failed to achieve its key performance indicator (KPI) of at least half of ambulance services responding in less than 15 minutes for critical cases.
Hospital Serdang only achieved 10.9 per cent, followed by Hospital Selayang and HTAR at 40.9 per cent and 48.3 per cent respectively in 2017.
“Audit analysis found that the time range for an ambulance reaching the location was between one and 87 minutes,” said the Auditor-General’s report.
The national audit said hospital ambulances could not reach emergencies on time because of traffic congestion starting from the hospital gate to the site of the incident.
“Based on observations by the audit, even though the ambulance light is on and the siren is sounded, the vehicle still finds it difficult to move in traffic jams, especially when the traffic light is red and during peak hours.”
According to the report, the Medical Emergency Coordinating Centre (MECC) — which operates as a centre of instruction, control, coordination, and communication for pre-hospital services at the emergency and trauma department (ETD) — covered a large area of between 4 and 83km.
Hospital Selayang’s MECC covers between 4km and 83km in Kuala Kubu Baru, Hulu Selangor, and Gombak. Hospital Serdang’s MECC’s area coverage comprises between 8km and 32km in Serdang, Kajang, Cheras, Puchong, Semenyih, and Beranang, while HTAR’s MECC covers 10km to 35km in Banting, Klang, and Shah Alam.
Hospital Kajang does not provide MECC services. MECC services in Kajang fall under Hospital Serdang.
A survey by the National Audit Department on 124 people who have used ETD ambulance services found that almost half, or 49.2 per cent of respondents, said the response time was reasonable, while 45.2 per cent found the response time to be very quick and efficient.
The Health Ministry told the Auditor-General that the main reason for its failure to achieve its KPI was the lack of human resources and ambulance teams.
“Ambulance teams cannot be placed outside the hospital because of such restrictions, as most ambulance teams are based in the hospital.”
The Health Ministry said among improvements for pre-hospital and ambulance services were strengthening cooperation between ETD hospitals and health clinics, where health clinics can also respond to 999 emergencies through MECC coordination.
In addition, the Health Ministry has also placed ambulance teams in locations with a high number of emergency calls to achieve the target response time.
“However, the lack of human resources and ambulances are a factor why ambulances cannot achieve its target response time,” said the ministry.
The Health Ministry is cooperating with the Fire and Rescue Department so that the latter can help provide emergency medical services, besides collaborating with non-government organisations like St John Ambulance and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society at five hotspots in the Klang Valley.
“For the year 2019, the KPI for ambulance response time has been fine-tuned and the scope of the KPI is to focus on critical areas with a high number of emergency calls.”
The Auditor-General said in response that ambulance services for the public could still be improved, even though most survey respondents were satisfied with such services.