Man shares ‘nightmare’ experience with ambulance service when trying to transport COVID-19 positive relative into S’pore

Trying to transport his sick father-in-law across the border from Johor Bahru to Singapore turned from a sincere attempt to a nightmare when one family contracted the service of the Singapore Emergency Ambulance Services.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday (13 July), Nicholas Lim detailed his experiences with the company that he thought would be able to help transport his father-in-law who was hospitalised with COVID-19 in Malaysia back to Singapore where his wife, children and grandchildren were.

Noting that the family felt he would get better care in Singapore, Mr Lim searched online for a way to bring his father-in-law back safely.

That’s when he came across the Singapore Emergency Ambulance Services. Speaking to someone named Eugene on the phone, Mr Lim recalled explaining the situation to the company and asked if they did cross-border transportation of hospital patients.

“He was really helpful, empathized with our situation, and said they definitely had the expertise to make it happen,” Mr Lim wrote.

He added, “And while we were there struggling to find ways to bring our dad back, he called back even in the wee-hours of the morning to update us on what he could do, it comforted us a little bit and we thought we were in good hands.”

Now, the catch was that in order for Eugene to provide more advice to the family and start working on the issue, the family was asked to make a non-refundable deposit of S$4,900.

Though the family thought about it given the ‘sizeable’ amount, they ultimately decided that their relative’s life was worth it, said Mr Lim.

Unfortunately, after making payment, “the nightmare started”, recalled the netizen.

Mr Lim’s family was informed that they had to get approval from the Ministry of Health to bring a COVID-19 positive patient into the country and that they needed to find a hospital that would accept his father.

The company would contact private hospitals on their behalf but the family would need to call government hospitals themselves to see if any beds were available.

“As much as possible, we told him we preferred a public hospital (we were expecting enormous fees from Private Hospitals), but also stressed that we were at a point where beggars couldn’t be choosers,” noted Mr Lim, adding “So if a private hospital was able to accept, we will take it.”

Though they tried, neither the family nor the company was successful in getting a spot for the elderly man.

Tragically, as the family was trying to get him into Singapore, Mr Lim’s father-in-law had passed on due to complications from COVID-19.

Mr Lim wrote, “With dismay, I then called Eugene and emailed Singapore Emergency Ambulance Services to inform them that we no longer need their services.”

“I would also then ask for a refund of the payment that we made since an ambulance was never dispatched, and they were never successful in finding us a spot in a private hospital.”

You would think that would be the end of it, but getting a refund from the company turned out to be an extended nightmare as well.

Mr Lim had asked for a refund on 28 May. The company responded on the same day that they would “review the case:”

A few days later on 1 June, Mr Lim’s attempt at getting in touch with Eugene from the company via phone went unanswered. He then sent an email to which he received a response saying that they were still looking into it.

When he asked when they might get back to him, Mr Lim received no reply.

Later between 9 to 16 June, Mr Lim said he made may phone calls to the company trying to get a response. When he managed to get in touch with Eugene, the man only said, “I understand, I will get back to you”.

When a chaser email was sent on 16 June, the company finally responded and agreed to a 50 per cent refund on a “goodwill” basis and to settle the matter, said Mr Lim in his post.

He noted, “To make it clear, I wasn’t expecting a full 100% refund, and am willing to pay for services/time they have spent on making calls to the hospitals etc.”

“But I felt really sore that a few calls/emails to hospitals and MOH costs me $2,450?!?! HOLY CRAP those are really expensive calls/emails”

Mr Lim explained that he wanted a refund on the basis that the company never succeeded in getting a spot in a local hospital for his father-in-law, no ambulance was ever dispatched, “core service” was not executed, and the company has “questionable business practices”.

The netizen then said he asked the company for a breakdown to justify the costs incurred and the mere 50 per cent refund. This was on 17 June.

However, once again the company went silent with the exception of speaking to Eugene on the phone. The family still hadn’t received a breakdown of costs.

Eventually on 2 July, the company said they would not refund more than 50 per cent of the deposit and reminded the family that they knew it was “non-refundable”.

Mr Lim proceeded to give the company his account number on 3 July, asking them to make the refund and provide a receipt of the services rendered.

However, the company delayed again. They said on 6 July that the email server was down.

Eventually, they finally provided a receipt. They also asked for Mr Lim’s wife to approve the refund since she was the one to make the original deposit payment. She confirmed the next day.

Still, no refund was made.

“I want to stress that everytime I call, Eugene keeps bringing up that we were informed that the deposit is NON REFUNDABLE (I GET IT), and that the calls are all recorded,” Mr Lim wrote.

“I have, every single time I spoke to him, treated him with respect, speaking nicely and be extremely patient with him.”

Finally losing patience on 9 July, Mr Lim said he called the company up again and gave them a “piece of [his] mind”. He also demanded that payment be made that day.

However, the man on the phone kept telling him that since it was Friday, they could only get back to him on Monday. Eugene then said they could only transfer the money back to the original payer.

Mr Lim wrote, “In the first place, I don’t think they will have been able to identify what was the original payment account number.”

“Secondly, if this was true, they have lost all credibility at this point”

Finally, on 12 July when Mr Lim called again for an update, the team finally transferred the refund. This was more than two months after the family had requested it.

Mr Lim did admit at the end of his post that it was his mistake for proceeding with payment even though he knew it was non-refundable.

However, he still lamented the terrible after service support, saying “why would I trust a life with this kind of bad customer service?”

Mr Lim also tagged the MOH in his post and questioned if this particular industry was regulated.

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