KUALA LUMPUR, August 7 — Health authorities claimed that Hospital Slim River’s ambulance was well maintained, amid allegations that a retreaded tyre could have caused a recent fatal accident.
Images of the Sunday crash in Perak — which killed a 66-year-old female patient and a 37-year-old ambulance driver — circulating on Facebook show an apparently retreaded right rear tyre and a torn up tread lying on the ground nearby. Initial police investigations found that that very wheel at the back of the ambulance had burst and caused the vehicle to skid and crash.
A retreaded tyre is an old tyre of good structural quality that is reused by replacing its worn casing with a new tread and sidewall rubber.
A woman purported on Facebook Monday that a man, who claimed to be a friend of the ambulance driver, told a radio station that the accident was allegedly caused by “negligence” and poor maintenance of the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospital ambulance’s tyres.
“Maintenance and tyres are well maintained and serviced,” Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told CodeBlue, when asked about the maintenance records for Hospital Slim River’s ambulance tyres.
“We are doing our investigation as the ambulance hit the divider and tyre burst,” the DG added. “Let the investigation take place first rather than to speculate.”
Bernama, however, reported Muallim police chief Supt Wan Kamarul Azran Wan Yusof as saying that the ambulance’s right rear tyre had burst and caused the vehicle to skid, after which it crashed into a road divider and overturned.
Two people were killed — a patient named Azizah Dolah and Mohd Hafidz Mohd Bahari, the ambulance driver — and three others injured in the car crash that happened at KM 368.3 of the North South Expressway near Slim River, when the ambulance was carrying Azizah from Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh to Hospital Slim River. The distance between both MOH facilities in Perak stretches over 100km.
When CodeBlue asked a representative of corporate communications from Hospital Slim River on the maintenance record for its ambulances for the past 10 years, the MOH hospital declined comment because the accident was still under police and MOH investigations.
“Any information and official statements will only be issued by the Health director-general or the Perak state health department director,” said Hospital Slim River’s spokeswoman.
CodeBlue had also asked Hospital Slim River and the Perak State Health Department to confirm if the ambulance from the car crash had used retreaded tyres and when was the last time the tyres were checked, but the health department said it could not yet respond.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad’s press office also declined comment, telling CodeBlue that the matter was under a police investigation.
Works Minister Baru Bian reportedly said last January that about 30 traffic accidents on highways in Malaysia daily, or 10,000 a year, were caused by the use of retreaded tyres.
According to the Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association in a 2017 report, a retreaded tyre is usually 50 per cent cheaper than a new one. The association said vehicles should only use retreaded tyres from certified manufacturers, with a tyre ideally being retreaded only once, as illegally retreaded tyres are prone to explosions during vehicle movement.
The Auditor-General’s 2018 Report Series 1 found that emergency and trauma departments at government hospitals were overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded, with a lack of beds and medical and computer equipment.
Public hospital ambulances in the Klang Valley, according to the national audit, took up to 87 minutes to reach the incident site in critical emergencies, almost six times longer than the target of below 15 minutes.