Emergency services admit mishandling call

Man left freezing on snow-covered bench for four hours despite repeated calls to emergency workers

December 7th, 2012 12:13 pm| by admin
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Emergency service operators in Copenhagen admit they mishandled a call earlier this week that tried to report that a man had been lying unconscious for several hours on a snow-covered bench in the Vesterbro district.

“There is no question that a call like that one should have gone immediately to a healthcare professional,” Lars Bo Kjær, of the Copenhagen fire brigade, told Politiken newspaper.

A woman rang 112 and told the operator that she feared for the life of a man who by that time had been lying motionless for several hours.

The operator transferred the call to the police, despite the fact that the woman explicitly asked for an ambulance.

"You only refer a call to the police if there is a possibility that the victim is violent, otherwise the operator should always contact health professionals," said Kjær. He said that he will review proper procedure with alarm centre operators.

Dr Jan Nørtved, the head of the Greater Copenhagen emergency medical services, said that the man, who was finally admitted to hospital, should have received immediate help. Nørtved said that he had heard a recording of the telephone conversation requesting an ambulance for the man.

The woman who first discovered the man, his lips blue and head resting in an unnatural position, said she had to argue with police and emergency operators to get them to help.

"I called the community police and they said he would be okay as long as he was snoring and then they asked me if he was drunk,” the woman, who asked to be identified only as Lea, told Politiken. “I said that he had urinated in his pants and smelled of alcohol and the police said that I should call a shelter.”

The woman went home and called a shelter, who told her that it did not have the personnel to pick up the man and asked if she could check on him every half hour.

After finding the man colder and his condition worsening, the woman rang 112.

"When I called emergency services they also asked if the man was drunk, and said they would transfer me to the community police,” she said.

She said she told the operator that the man had been there for several hours by this time and that he needed to be moved right away, but that the operator said it would be better if the police came and woke the man.

When police came on the line, they again asked if the man was drunk or a drug addict.

After waiting another 20 minutes, the woman flagged down a man walking his dog and asked for help because she was afraid the man on the bench had stopped breathing.

The man refused to give the victim – who he feared was a drug addict – mouth to mouth resuscitation, but he did ring 112.

“You need to come now. There is a man dying out here,” the man reportedly screamed into his phone.

The ambulance arrived a short time later. The man’s condition is unknown.

NOTE: This article originally included a photo of a Falck ambulance. Falck was not involed in the incident and we regret the incorrect photo choice.

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