PETALING JAYA - A friend of the Singaporean who died in the Aug 29 hit-and-run accident in Johor Baru clarified what happened during the five hours Justinian Tan was critically warded at Sultanah Aminah Hospital.
Joshua De Rozario said there could have been "miscommunication" with the hospital staff who were speaking in Malay and "we had difficulties communicating."
While maintaining that "it did feel like 30 minutes" for the ambulance to arrive at the accident scene, De Rozario said a lot of things were going on after the accident happened in Taman Abad in Johor Baru.
"There were quite a lot of people there and someone else called the ambulance.
"A lot of things were going on at once, so the wait for help to come felt really long then. I thought it took 30 minutes but their logs said differently," De Rozario told The Straits Times.
"We were in a distressed situation and didn't know what to do. In that situation, I didn't have a sense of the time and it did feel like 30 minutes.
"When we got to the hospital, they started treating him straightaway but they were speaking Malay and we were speaking English and we had difficulties communicating.
"At that point of time, what I heard was that we had to pay and in cash - it couldn't be in card. We didn't have a large sum of money on us and we had to run around finding an ATM. From our point of view then, it felt like we had to pay first," De Rosario said.
De Rosario and Tan, 24, were in Johor Baru with three other friends for supper when Tan, a private accounting student, was hit by a car.
He sustained severe injuries and was sent to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru.
He was there for about five hours before his family members arrived and opted to discharge him at own risk and arranged admission to the Singapore General Hospital, after understanding the risk involved in further delaying surgery.
Tan died at about 12.30am on Aug 30 at the Singapore General Hospital, when he was taken off life support.
The Malaysian authorities had came under fire after the episode was reported by several Singapore media outlets including theindependent.sg that the ambulance from HSA took 30 minutes to arrive at the scene.
After the accident De Rozario had complained of the ordeal to Singapore media, alleging that the ambulance took a long time to arrive at the accident scene.
De Rozario claimed that upon reaching the hospital, they were asked to pay RM1,350 (S$429) each before its staff could start giving them treatment.
However, when contacted by The Straits Times later, he said "nothing was really communicated properly so it could have been a miscommunication."
"We didn't even know where he was at the time, but after we paid they told us to go to the red zone.
"Truth be told, I don't know and I can't comment on whether the hospital did all they could. I'm not medically trained and we had communication problems because we did not speak much Malay. So we thought it was better to bring him back. Perhaps there were things lost in translation."
He added: "We contacted the media in hopes that the guy who hit him will be found and made responsible.
"We also realised that in Malaysia we didn't know what to do. Other people had to give us the embassy number and helped us in that situation. I'm saying all this not to attack the system there because I understand they operate differently and we might not have the privileges that we do in our own country.
"By speaking to the media, I want to make Singaporeans aware of the need to know emergency numbers, for example. So many of us go to JB just for supper or shopping and we don't realise we don't actually know what to do when something happens there. That's the point we want to convey.
"It's not about wanting to get revenge, because that is not going to bring Justinian back. We want to close it and move on."
Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Friday denied there was delay or any demand of payment before Tan was treated.
From ambulance service records, Dr Noor Hisham said the emergency call was made at 2.57am on Aug 25 and the ambulance left two minutes later and arrived at the scene at 3.10am, before leaving with the patient at 3.15am.
Dr Noor Hisham said Tan was admitted to the Red Zone upon arrival at the Emergency Department and Advanced Trauma Life Support protocol, which was already initiated by the ambulance team earlier.
The Emergency Department team, he said, also initiated the necessary imaging (primary survey X-rays, CT-scan of brain, cervical and thorax) treatment (including intubation).
The case was referred to the relevant team in a very timely and professional manner, without asking for any deposit since this was an emergency case, he said.
In view of the injury to his brain, Dr Noor Hisham said Tan was referred to the neurosurgery team and urgent decompressive craniectomy plus removal of clot and intracranial pressure monitoring were planned without demand for any deposit payment.
Subsequently, Tan's family members arrived and were requested to make a deposit as per protocol for foreign patients.
"It is important to note that the emergency imaging and treatments required were not withheld or delayed," said Dr Noor Hisham.
Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the state government wants the Health Ministry to consider legal action against those responsible for the article.