KUALA LUMPUR, August 28 — A union of Ministry of Health (MOH) vehicle drivers said it would lodge a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) if the maintenance of an ambulance in a fatal accident was proven faulty.
An ambulance from Slim River Hospital crashed in Slim River, Perak, last August 4, killing the driver and patient, which early police investigations said was caused by a burst tyre.
“We stress that if there are leakages on the part of the concessionaire, Edgenta, we will make a report to MACC because this involves lives,” Association of Health Ministry Drivers in Peninsular Malaysia (KPPKKSM) secretary-general Reostam Dzahar told CodeBlue.
UEM Edgenta, a government-linked company in charge of ambulance maintenance in Slim River Hospital, has yet to comment on the accident or allegations of shoddy maintenance in the government hospital.
KPPKKSM also expressed dissatisfaction about its exclusion from an internal MOH inquiry investigating the Slim River Hospital ambulance crash.
“Until now, we haven’t received any explanation from the ministry or the affected hospital,” Reostam said.
“We from the union call for transparency in the investigation of this incident. If there is negligence on the part of the concessionaire, we demand that they be held fully accountable.”
CodeBlue reported Monday complaints from eight Slim River Hospital staff that the 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.
Hospital workers 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.
Reostam said the extent of the purported problems in the public hospital was “very disappointing”.
“We didn’t know it was that bad. If what they say is true, it’s terrible,” he said. “We ask for the [health] department, concessionaire, or the engineering division in the ministry to take responsibility for these issues.”
KPPKKSM alleged it has also received plenty of complaints from many government hospitals about poor maintenance of their vehicles, especially ambulances.
“We’ve tried to highlight this issue, but no action was taken. We don’t know why,” Reostam said.
The union — which claims to represent about 3,000 drivers from MOH hospitals, health or dental offices, training institutes, and other public health facilities — said complaints about vehicle maintenance at these places throughout the peninsula were raised at each of its quarterly meetings.
“We call for explanations so that improvements can be made immediately. We don’t want the same thing to happen to other drivers,” said Reostam.
He said the complaints did not just target hospitals that received vehicle maintenance services from UEM Edgenta that provides hospital support services for 32 MOH hospitals in Perak, Kedah, Penang and Perlis in a 10-year concession ending 2025.
“This includes other companies too. We can’t just focus on Edgenta,” he said. “The concessionaires under the Health Ministry must be audited.”
He also urged the government to insure its vehicles, besides telling hospitals not to appoint medical assistants as vehicle supervisors, like what was allegedly done in Slim River Hospital.
“Can you check tyres with a stethoscope?” Reostam said. “You don’t know anything about maintaining vehicles, but you get appointed. This is what happens.”