KUALA LUMPUR, August 27 — Tanjong Malim MP Chang Lih Kang urged UEM Edgenta to be transparent about their maintenance of Slim River Hospital ambulances after one encountered a deadly crash from a burst tyre.
Chang, who is also PKR vice-president, said he has heard allegations that the Perak government hospital ambulance, which got into an accident last August 4 that killed a patient and the driver, had a retreaded tyre, but stressed he was not privy to any information.
“As rumours are going around, the good name of the public health institution is badly affected.
“UEM Edgenta should come out to clear the air, in order to restore public confidence in the safety of ambulances of Slim River Hospital,” Chang told CodeBlue.
CodeBlue reported yesterday complaints from eight anonymous Slim River Hospital staff that the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospital’s ambulances previously suffered burst tyres, while carrying patients, up to three times this year before the fatal August 4 accident, and three more times last year. Those incidents didn’t result in crashes.
Four unnamed sources also accused UEM Edgenta, a government-linked company in charge of Slim River Hospital’s ambulance maintenance and other hospital support services, of replacing the tyres of the hospital’s entire seven-vehicle ambulance fleet with new ones a few days after the August 4 crash. But MOH said there was no record of this.
Hospital staff also alleged various problems with the condition of ambulances, including Ambulance W4802M from the fatal accident that they claimed had a busted door handle and radio, and a missing seatbelt on the stretcher. They further alleged that maintenance checks on ambulances were not done thoroughly, while staff complaints about the vehicles were often ignored.
“If the ambulance used tayar celup (retreaded tyres), then it’s a crime. They should not have used that,” Chang said.
“I don’t see any incentive for the hospital to cover up,” the PKR lawmaker added. “I’m going to pursue this issue. I’ve already asked the police to provide me the report once it’s done.”
MCA deputy president Dr Mah Hang Soon, who was previously Perak state executive councillor in charge of health, called for investigations into Slim River Hospital staff’s accusations.
“I’m not sure what’s the truth in what they say, but it’s a bit strange lah. Why should the tyre burst so many times in a year?” Dr Mah told CodeBlue.
He said he did not receive any complaints of burst ambulance tyres during his tenure as state executive councillor, after UEM Edgenta was awarded a 10-year health support services concession with MOH hospitals in the northern region in 2015.
“We cannot assume that during my tenure as exco member, even if there is no such complaint, and no such unfortunate incident happened, doesn’t mean we don’t have to look into the matter,” Dr Mah said.
“The same company, the maintenance could have been different, the level and standard. We cannot assume lah. Under no circumstances we can and should assume. When there’s a complaint, we have to look into the matter.”
Perak state health, consumer affairs, civil society, national integration and human resources committee chairman A. Sivanesan declined comment on the Slim River Hospital ambulance crash when contacted, saying the case was still under police investigation.
“As far as the ministry is concerned, we’ve never carried on with ambulances even if tyres burst. So they should be maintained well. So we ensure it’s always maintained well,” Sivanesan told CodeBlue.
Bengkel C.W Sdn Bhd, a car workshop in Slim River, denied claims that it outfitted the Slim River Hospital ambulance fleet with new tyres after the crash.
“We didn’t change tyres,” the workshop manager, who only identified himself as Mr Wong, told CodeBlue.
“You call Edgenta, you ask the person in charge, what did they do with which vehicle, they can tell you. They have all the paperwork. We here — later they say they didn’t send here but to other places — then how can we answer? Later we get into trouble if we get it wrong.”
UEM Edgenta foreman in Slim River Hospital, only known as Mr Sham, refused to answer questions about whether he had changed the tyres of the ambulance fleet after the accident.
“There is an investigation committee. They will issue an official statement, so we cannot comment on anything,” Sham told CodeBlue.
“We cannot reveal everything until the official report comes out,” he added, declining to provide his full name.