PETALING JAYA: An accident happens. A man is hurt. And help is on the way – in just 10 minutes.
Ambulances nationwide will reach patients faster with a pilot project being conducted together with St John Ambulance Malaysia (SJAM) and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS).
“We ultimately aim to deliver medical emergency response in less than 15 minutes, or if possible, 10 minutes, in line with international standards,” Health Ministry (medical) deputy director-general Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai told The Star recently.
He said a common complaint from the public used to be that ambulances arrived late, with some taking up to 45 minutes to reach the scene.
To cut response time, the ministry embarked on the project with ambulance vehicles from SJAM and MRCS being placed at “hot spots”, or areas where a high number of Malaysia Emergency Response Services 999 (MERS 999) calls are likely to be made.
The hotspots are likely to be places like toll plaza, or mosques or other places where people congregate.
“With MERS 999, we are able to track all calls nationwide for ambulance services to our call centres.
“Based on the data collected, we are able to tell where the hotspots are. Ambulances are placed at these places, which are dynamic and change based on the time of the day and on weekends,” said Dr Jeyaindran, adding that this project would be rolled out in stages nationwide in the next five years.
Beginning in 2014, the project initially covered key locations served by five hospitals in the Klang Valley, namely Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) in Klang, Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Serdang, Hospital Ampang and Hospital Sungai Buloh.
It was later introduced in Malacca and Penang.
Dr Jeyaindran said that by roping in SJAM and MRCS, more ambulances could be deployed.
“We are also trying to engage the Fire and Rescue Department, which has 200 ambulances at fire stations around the country,” he said.
He said the ministry was currently training department officers to be “first responders” in medical emergencies so they would have basic knowledge when dealing with patients.
Dr Jeyaindran said that while it could cost up to RM400,000 to get a new fully-equipped ambulance, the cost of one hotspot using existing resources was RM250,000.
“This means funding a hotspot is more cost effective.”
HTAR emergency consultant Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Mohamad Nor, who heads the pilot project, said ambulances despatched were able to bring early emergency care to the scene.
“The ambulances are also able to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and are equipped with automated external defibrillators to handle life-threatening heart problems,” he said.
Dr Ahmad Tajuddin said the potential impact of pilot project was so promising that it became one of the public service delivery transformation initiatives in the Government Transformation Report for 2014.
SJAM honorary secretary-general and Selangor state commander Datuk Burnard Yeo Kim Thong said the movement now had more than 100 ambulances.
“We are ready to work with the ministry and take the project to a national level,” he said.
MRCS secretary general Datuk Sayed A Rahman Sayed Mohd said 16 staff members and three ambulances were stationed in the two hotspots assigned to MRCS – Masjid Al-Husna in Bandar Sunway and Masjid Al-Ridhuan in Hulu Klang.
“Between November 2014 and September last year, we intervened in 956 cases in the two hotspots, with an average of 70 to 100 cases a month. Between November 2015 and April this year, we handled another 553 cases,” he said.
The project is not without its problems.
“With several ambulances parked at surau, some locals thought it was a mobile clinic to treat common ailments,” said Dr Jeyaindran, adding that some even asked for free medicine.
Others also thought the medical staff were just “lepak-ing” or hanging out aimlessly.