News : Hoax Calls Drowning Emergency Ambulance Service
April 30, 2014 -- Employees handling the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (ambulance service) dread every time their helpline rings. No, it's not just ghost calls that are troubling them, but also hoax calls. The number of hoax calls MEMS call centre received in the last four months was a whopping 1,22,509.
The emergency service was launched across the state in January to reach out to needy patients. A call during the 'golden hour' can save lives. But now those employed to attend the calls are not sure whether an incoming call would be an emergency or not.
Dr Satish Pawar, director, health services, Maharashtra said: "This service is meant for emergency, but 90% of the calls that come in are not of that nature. We get many blank/hoax calls. But none of them can be ignored, as we don't want to miss an emergency call."
To counter this, the department is now planning to launch an awareness campaign. "We are going to increase the number of our ambulance services to 500 by the first week of May. Around the same time, we will also launch an awareness programme through advertisements. We will warn people against making blank/hoax calls. We may even be forced to block numbers that make hoax calls. It's an emergency number and people should help us serve them better," added Dr Pawar.
-The awareness campaign will take the shape of mass education programmes through TV and newspapers ads. "MEMS's computerised system is equipped to identify repeat callers. We have been noting down the source of blank calls. We may even seek police help to check this," said Dr Pawar.
MEMS has received 5,85,560 calls so far. Of them, 1,22,509 were hoax calls. "Of 5,85,650 calls, only 13,508 were emergency calls," said Dr Pawar.
Dr Anil Pachnekar, dean, National Indian Medical Association, said: "The facility was started to help the needy; people should not play with such a facility. The police should help the department track down such calls and penalize the trouble makers. This service is to help stabilize a patient before he or she reaches the hospital. It is a life-saving system. In foreign countries, such facilities help reduce the mortality rate."
Dr Nikhil Datar, senior gynaecologist and founder, Patient Safety Alliance, an NGO which works for patient care, said: "There is a great need to educate patients. This is a facility for emergency situations, people shouldn't be misusing it.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services:
Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) project under National Health Mission provides pre-hospital health services to patients through life support ambulances to nearby hospitals for further treatment.
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014