News : 1669 Medical Hotline Warns Abusers of Punishment
Bangkok, Thailand, Jan 2, 2017 -- The country's medical emergency hotline operator has entered the new year with a renewed hope for the end of abuse of its hotline number which should be reserved for only people in need.
"Please do not use the hotline to make unnecessary phone calls. It's not fun because it's a matter of life and death for other people," Anucha Setthasathien, secretary of the National Institute for Emergency (NIEM), said on Monday.
His plea also came with a warning of punishment for abusers, who could be fined up to 10,000 baht for violating the Emergency Medicine Act and Criminal Code.
The statement came after a man in Ubon Ratchathani made 51 calls to its 1669 EMS hotline in late December. He was later fined 5,000 baht after a branch of the institute filed a complaint with police.
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Manas Khamchalee was summoned to the police station in Muang district on Friday and admitted to dialling the number between 8am and 8pm on Dec 24. He claimed he did so because he wanted to hear the charming voice of a female operator at the NIEM centre in the province.
Mr Manas, a 20-year-old worker at a tapioca plant in Trakan Phuetphon district, told the police that he had made one call earlier asking the centre to help a farmer who passed out. After briefly talking to the operator, he was impressed with her voice. He then started bombarding her with more calls so he could hear her voice again without realising he was breaking laws.
Later, the man was easily identified by the mobile phone number he used to make the calls.
The institute has set up the centres in all provinces. A caller to the number will be transferred to the operation office in the province where the call is made so that medics can act fast.
Mr Manas was not the first to annoy the centre in the northeastern province with unnecessary calls.
In January last year, the centre urged the end of such pranks after receiving 2,000 calls, including sex phone calls and fake accident reports, in December 2015, the Thai Rath online reported.
The institute has long been campaigning against call-centre phone abuse for years. It is now trying a new approach by raising awareness of the importance of the 1669 hotline and highlighting it as a life-saving number for the public. The NIEM found that 26% of people who needed medical emergency did not call its hotline number directly, Dr Anucha said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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