Ambulance driver blocked by road hog: 'What if the patient had died?'
The original headline of this article said that the patient in the ambulance had died. This headline was related to the sidebar below, not the main article. We are sorry for the error and any distress caused.
As an ambulance driver, his job is to get patients to the hospital as quickly as he can so that they can receive medical attention.
And last month, Mr Tommy Chong had possibly the most frustrating drive of his career when an inconsiderate driver not only refused to give way to his ambulance, but repeatedly braked for no reason, forcing him to do the same.
"First I high-beamed the driver, then used the sirens, then the horn, but he just refused to give way," said Mr Chong, 23. "He even jam braked three times; it was clearly intentional."
The New Paper reported the incident on Dec 11 last year, with the video of the incident going viral after it was posted on TNP's Facebook page. The video attracted more than 135,000 views.
After the frustration, Mr Chong said he was happy to know that the driver of the Hyundai Matrix that refused to give way to him was being dealt with.
Traffic police told TNP that they have concluded their investigations into the matter, and said action will be taken against the driver.
TNP understands that the driver will receive demerit points and a fine.
Speaking to TNP last week, Mr Chong, who works for Singapore Emergency Ambulance Services (Seas), talked about his frustrations that day.
He said that after using the sirens and the horn, he tried to accelerate to get past the road hog.
"When I tried to overtake him from the left, he sped up to prevent me from doing so," he said.
In the end, Mr Chong had to go back behind the car and use the loudhailer.
"I was left with no choice," he said.
"The driver's windows were open, so I used the loudhailer and read out the driver's licence plate number three times, asking him to move."
The driver finally gave way after that, but the damage was done.
By the time they got to the hospital, the patient, Madam Whey, 45, had to be warded in the Intensive Care Unit.
Mr Chong said: "I was so frustrated. What if the patient had died?"
Thankfully, Madam Whey, who was in the hospital for four weeks, was discharged last Wednesday.
Mr Chong, who has been an ambulance driver for more than a year, said that while most people give way, there are those who refuse to do so.
"I've had about four incidents of drivers blocking me since I started," he said.
A spokesman for Seas said there have been incidents of patients dying because of inconsiderate drivers.
Mr Chong, who is also a trained paramedic, said it gets frustrating, as the ambulance drivers know what is happening behind them, but are unable to do much when blocked.
"You know that it's critical and you want to get the patient to the hospital," he said. "But you can't, because some drivers either have no knowledge of what's going on or just don't care."
Madam Whey's son, Mr Nicholas Whey, 21, a student, is thankful to Seas and believes his mother is still alive because of them.
"Their professional assistance made a big difference," he said. "It saved her life."
When told that the road hog is being dealt with and is expected to get demerit points and a fine, Mr Whey said he hopes such drivers will get harsher penalties to deter similar behaviour.
"It's a life that was at stake, a fine is not enough. There should be a jail term," he said.
Mr Chong said: "I think just a fine and demerit points do not deter them."
He also appealed to motorists to be more considerate on the road, especially when it comes to emergency vehicles that need to get past.
He said: "Please, just give way. Others are paying with their lives."
Patients die due to selfish drivers
A spokesman for Seas recalled two incidents where patients died because of inconsiderate drivers in mid-2013.
In the first, which happened in Woodlands, a 42-year-old woman who had a weak pulse called for an ambulance.
"When she was taken to the ambulance, our driver could not move out as a car had parked right in front of it and its driver was gone," said the spokesman.
"The ambulance driver called back frustrated because there was nothing she could do as (the woman) lay dying behind her. She collapsed, and we administered the defibrillator twice, but we couldn't save her."
In the other incident which happened at a running event, a 32-year-old man died after the ambulance was blocked on all sides by parked cars.
The spokesman said: "We were already on standby at the event. When the runner suffered cardiac arrest, we quickly attended to him.
"But when we took him back to the ambulance, we couldn't get him inside because cars were parked on all sides."
The man died despite the paramedics' attempts to save him.
BY THE numbers
The number of summonses issued for failure to give way to emergency vehicles in 2013, up from seven in 2012.