Hospital denied woman who didn’t call ahead

Newly-introduced acute telephone lines leads to “outrageous” situation in Slagelse; patients and hospitals nationwide still adjusting to new rules

An injured woman was denied at a Slagelse Accident and Emergency (A&E) because she hadn’t called in advance.

Just how injured do you have to be to get admitted to the A&E when you haven’t called ahead?

That’s the question Preben Johansson from Slagelse is asking after his 56-year-old-wife, Lisbeth Johansson, was injured when she was hit by a car while biking.

She injured her head and had pains in her shoulder, but at the arrival to the A&E, she was denied because she hadn’t called the acute phone line to make an appointment in advance, as the rules stipulate.

Since neither her or her husband had a mobile phone on them, the nurse suggested that Preben Johansson could borrow a phone so he could go outside and make the call and get referred to the A&E. Otherwise Lisbeth Johansson, who it turned out had a broken shoulder, wouldn’t be able to get in.

“It seemed very outrageous, and we were frankly quite shocked about that reception,” Preben Johansson said. “It was just shortly before that I had received a call from the driver who had hit her and then I drove her directly to the A&E. It seems extremely inflexible to hold on to the rules like that.”

Region Zealand has introduced the acute phone, which is answered by the health staff that then refers the patients to the A&E or redirects those who should contact their own doctor.

Region Zealand’s regional chairman, Steen Bach Nielsen, said he regretted the incident.

How injured do citizens have to be to deviate from the rules?

“I agree that good judgement has to determine how to act when people don’t call beforehand. The staff has to see and react to individual situations. It’s not up to me to say if it was right or wrong in this specific case, because I wasn’t there. We need time to adjust to the new rules, as do citizens. But it’s always regrettable when our patients have a bad experience. We have to learn from it.”

How could it be that the injured woman was rejected?

“In principle, the employees in question are right that people should call before they arrive at the emergency room, and if somebody doesn’t, you’ll have to improvise in the situation.”

Do you understand the couples’ frustration over the reception?

“I understand it. But it’s one bad situation out of many requests to the emergency room, and problems rarely occur. The new arrangement seems quite reasonable. The number of patients who need to go to the emergency room has decreased quite nicely by 20 percent. This has created air in the waiting room and the staff is happy to use their efforts where there’s the biggest need. Also the patients who get their problems solved by the nurse on the phone are happy because they don’t have to go the emergency room.”

Factfile | Acute telephone lines

  • All five Danish regions have acute telephone lines except the Region of Southern Denmark, which is looking into getting one in the spring.
  • The acute phones are answered by specially-trained nurses who give people advice on what to do or where to seek help when they’re injured or sick.
  • Despite the name of the phone, you still have to call 1-1-2 in case of acute illness or injuries.
  • In Region Zealand the acute phone (7015 0708) has existed for six months, and you have to call it before showing up at the A&E.
  • In the Capital Region the acute line (1813) was introduced on 30 January 2012, and receives approximately 600 calls a day.
  • The acute phone has already received a lot of complaints, among other from the Consumer Council, which has claimed it was illegal for anyone other than a doctor to make a diagnosis – something the National Board of Health has rejected. The national medical association Lægeforeningen has also criticised the acute phones, saying that they could confuse patients.

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