Penang State Health, Welfare and Caring Society chairman YB Phee Boon Poh was invited launching the Malaysian Red Crescent (MRC) Society 24-hour ambulance service for the Chinese New Year festive period at the society’s Penang branch operation office in Permatang Tinggi.

Phee said three ambulances would be put on standby between Jan 23 and Jan 31.  Some 300 Red Crescent members are involved during the period and they will be stationed along state roads on the island, north, central and south Seberang Prai.

The ambulances will be equipped with the Hospital Emergency Ambulance Radio Link system to enable members on duty to communicate with hospitals, St John Ambulance, civil defence and other emergency medical services.

Phee said the Penang Government has forecasted the number of hardcore poor families in Penang to increase this year as more people are expected to grapple with the economic downturn.  He said based on the latest figures, there were 904 hardcore poor families in the state.  Many workers were expected to be retrenched on the onset of the economic downturn this year, adding that the state was taking measures to help those affected by the problem.

“We have spoken to the private sector to help out those in need, especially the hardcore poor, and appealed to employers to hire Malaysians first,” he added.  He said several companies had responded to the appeals and “most of them will give priority to locals when they hire new workers”.

Phee also said at least 10 companies had agreed to either provide jobs or cash to hardcore poor families to help them weather the hard times.  He said some of the jobs included price tagging items and refilling shelves at hypermarkets, adding that applicants would be vetted by the state Welfare Department and the state Tithe Management Centre before they were employed.