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Operator sends neighbour, not ambulance, to help injured woman

TT/Clara Guibourg · 5 Aug 2011, 10:43

Published: 05 Aug 2011 10:43 GMT+02:00

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The operator who took the call judged that that the woman's situation wasn't urgent and thus elected not to dispatch an ambulance to her home, the local Dala-Demokraten newspaper reported.

Instead, the operator called an elderly couple living nearby and asked them to help the woman instead.

However, the couple were unable to find the woman's apartment and eventually returned home without helping the woman.

"The whole incident is very unfortunate. This operator has acted entirely of his own accord," said Daniel Lundin, manager of SOS in Falun, to the newspaper.

The daughter of the elderly couple who unexpectedly found themselves tasked with responding to the emergency services call was furious over SOS Alarm's actions.

"How can SOS call people late on Saturday night and call them out on duty?" she wrote in an aggrieved statement, wondering what might've happened if her parents had injured themselves trying to help the injured woman back on her feet.

"Might they have been charged with breaking and entering?"

In the end, the injured woman was helped by another neighbour, and was finally able to get back up.

Lundin explained that how to respond to the injured woman's call for help is complicated by uncertainty about how serious the situation may be.

Depending on the severity, he said, responding to such calls may instead be the responsibility of home care services rather than emergency services.

Story continues below…

The incident is the latest in a number of cases in which SOS Alarm has come in for criticism.

Earlier in the week, a woman from Söderham in eastern Sweden who was suffering from heart disease was made to wait more than an hour for help because SOS Alarm operators sent the the ambulance to the identical address in Hudiksvall, a town 50 kilometres away from where the sick woman lived.

TT/Clara Guibourg (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:22 August 5, 2011 by mamegoma
...And if the neighbor said no?
11:33 August 5, 2011 by johnny1939
@mamegoma I would have told the operator to go and f... herself. The nerve of it all!!! There are several reasons why I would not do this sort of thing legal reasons because I am incompetent when it comes to First Aid. In countries like the US they send ambulances w/o to many questions of course they charge a hand and a foot for this but if you are dying it is worth it and if you are not you will think 2 before you do it again.
12:43 August 5, 2011 by conboy
If you believe all of the free market "HOO HA" when married to new age "HOO HA" you could describe the operator's behaviour as a new departure in so called " social entrepeneurship."
13:40 August 5, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
The lead says:

"Rather than send an ambulance to respond to a call from an injured woman in Borlänge in central Sweden, emergency services operator SOS Alarm elected to call on an elderly couple living nearby to check on her instead."

This means that services operator at SOS is either stupid or mentally retarded.

With a litte bit of common sense, she should have done the following:

1.- Send the ambulance, no matter if the woman was seriously injured or not.

2.- Call the neighbours just for them to keep an eye on the woman. Just to give her support.

Many stupidities have been committed by the SOS personal, but, as usual, nothing happens in beautiful Sweden and nothing will happen.
13:49 August 5, 2011 by KungsholmenGuy
Obviously a controversial and possibly illegal decision on the part of the SOS operator, but I do not understand the daughter's outrage that her parents were asked to assist. People can always say no when asked to assist another person for any reason (feeling too weak, the matter is too private, no first aid or CPR training, unsure of address etc..) or no reason, and it would appear that more than one neighbour was called, given that another eventually provided assistance.

If emergency services called me and asked me to assist a neighbour who had made an emergency call after a fall, I would do this without hesitation, and I would hope that my neighbours would do the same fo me.

I would assume that a medical professional would remain on the phone to ensure that there is no neck of back injury that I could aggravate by moving the person in the wrong way, and that they would have advised the accident victim over the phone that I was on my way, and continue speaking with the accident victim over the phone to ensure that the nature of the injuries does not require advanced medical equipment to get her back up again.

There are probably dozens of cases where elderly parents who fall are helped by their children, and no ambulance is ever called. I've never heard of any case where a parent was injured further or paralyzed for life because their son or daughter lifted them the wrong way after a fall. Asking a member of the community to volunteer to provide this service for an elderly person who is living alone is not very different from a son or daughter acting to provide initial assistance, and to me the request to assist would be an appeal to one's community spirit, and not an 'outrage'.
14:05 August 5, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
13:49 August 5, 2011 by KungsholmenGuy

You are certinly an eception of the rule. I would assist too, but unfortunately, you might wind up being accused to the police that you did not do enuugh to keep her in good conditions, that you lacked experience, that you were sleepy or that you were watching tv when the woman's condition got worse.

I know you got my point.
14:06 August 5, 2011 by countrysidedrive
I hope all our neighbors would be willing to help us if in need of help. But the point is it is the job of the SOS people to help. And helping is to send a professional not a neighbor. Honestly I would be outraged if they had called me. I would have helped if I could but the injured person could die right in front of me and there is a good chance I would not no how to help. Sending the neighbor is a outrage to me and should be to everyone.
14:24 August 5, 2011 by KungsholmenGuy
An important point here is that the accident victim has every right here to be outraged.

My main point is that the article only mentions the 'outrage' of the daughter of the couple who were asked to assist.

The accident victim herself may have felt that her injuries were not serious, and she may have agreed to a suggestion by the SOS person that one of her neighbours could be called upon to provide adequate assistance. This article does not present the accident victim's point of view, so in that sense the story is not completely known to us.
14:24 August 5, 2011 by Addendum
Under threat of imprisonment, Sweden steals an exorbitant, paralyzing chunk of your income under the pretense of "health care", then leaves you to suffer and/or die through outrageous, serial neglect and bullying by so-called medical professionals. Medical dictatorship.
15:08 August 5, 2011 by tuerd1982
Another unqualified personal. Why these SOS operator won't learn from previous incidents from other parts of the Sweden?
15:14 August 5, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
14:04 August 5, 2011 by muscle # 9

Medical dictatorship? Ask Putin, who made "potatismos" of Reinfeldt back on April 27, 2011.

Go to Google, type "Vladimir Putin Dissar Reinfeldt" and have a good laugh.

Guess who the annoying reporter was.
16:17 August 5, 2011 by Grokh
what kind of dementia everyone who works at sos ambulance have?

we hear this kind of news nonstop.... fire those incompetents :S
16:26 August 5, 2011 by conboy
I am surprised actually the operator did not ring up after a delivery pizza and ask the accomodating old couple to pick it up and deliver it to her at the alarm centre.
16:42 August 5, 2011 by Borilla

Your response and that of some of the others is perhaps the perfect example of why SOS Alarm continues to get away with their foolishness:

1. Perhaps least important, this is what they are paid for. They hold themselves out as experts in EMERGENCY CARE, they are not hired to be a telephone reference service.

2. Because SOS is hired to provide this service, they should provide it, not ask someone else to do their work for them (without payment).

3. The service that SOS is hired to provide is emergency medical care. This is not something to be administered over the telephone.

4. Calling lay people, with no known knowledge of medicine or emergency diagnosis and care, to make potential life or death decisions is a threat to public safety. What if they call a cooperative drunk or drug addict or someone who is suffering from a mental disability, who agrees to do what they ask?
18:16 August 5, 2011 by conboy
No you are all wrong about that the primary purpose of Swedish administrative agencies is to employ Swedes regardless of whether they are competent or not have you not got that yet?
18:41 August 5, 2011 by Addendum
J. R. Belmar #11 - "Guess who the annoying reporter was"

José Luis Belmar, author of Om svensk arrogans? Ah-haaa...
19:06 August 5, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
18:41 August 5, 2011 by Addendum

You have a crystal ball. Good for you. For your information, I have nine more books. Three of them had been best-sellers in my country. Thanks for your Ah-haaaaa. It sounds funny.
19:44 August 5, 2011 by Streja
I blame this on something they call cost-efficiency which is unfortunately the most important thing in Sweden today.
19:58 August 5, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
?Cost efficiency? Is that the new way to describe Lack of common sense? You are too soft, Streja. Common. You can do it better. Don't be intimidated by the you know what just waiting to insult you and others.
02:16 August 6, 2011 by salalah
They were actually on an island...

To get there they would have to send helicopter...

Maybe the woman wasnt so sick and maybe her neighbor happens to be a nurse...
08:16 August 6, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
Even in my beloved Mexico, yes, the one filled with flies, poor children, drug dealers, murderers, prostitutes, etc., according to the Swedish media (25 years of experience behind this comment) an ambulance is dispatched without any delay, just in case. YES, just in case.

The people in charge of the ambulance services are not "stängda i huvudet" like in Sweden, a first class country (?) where everything must be done by the book.
10:36 August 6, 2011 by Puffin
Actually The Local's version of this incident is a misleading - the whole point was that the woman wasn't injured at all and did not require medical assistance - but was just unable to get herslef up from the floor - the SOS operator should have got the social services night patrol to go over and check on her

In the end the lady was helped to her feet and required no further medical assistance


The reason that the daughter is angry is that the couple asked to go over and help were very elderly (late 70s) not young/fit people - these were NOT next door neighbours either - the elderly pair went out and 8.30-9.00pm to try and find this lady and could not find the house and became very worried

In addition the SOS operator did not tell the elderly couple that this was not an emergency - the couple became distressed as they believed that they might be letting down a woman in serious trouble

Thus the daughter is angry that her elderly parents were put at risk of injuring themselves - and I guess she has made a formal complaint about her elderly parents being put in this situation - so probably the news-story has come from the complaint (freedom of information)
10:51 August 6, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
@Puffin # 22

So The Local's version is misleading? No kidding. I would have never guessed. It is certainly not TL style. It always has damn good headlines, leads and contents. Its collaborators will be nominated for the coming Pulitzer prizes. Are you sure in what you stated?
11:32 August 6, 2011 by johnny1939
If an ambulance is called, it should just go, no discussion!!!
13:26 August 6, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
11:32 August 6, 2011 by johnny1939

Not in Sweden Johnny, not in Sseden where they have to see the Book of Rules to find out if the call fits into Chapter 1 and 2. But, if the call is in between, they call someone else to go and find out if the ambulance is really needed or not.

Sweedes go by the book. That is a fact. But they go by the book for others but not for themselves. They might be crazy, but sometimes, they are not stupid; well, sometimes.
15:17 August 6, 2011 by Puffin

What on earth are you on about? Islands and helicopters????

According to the Swedish news reports the incident happened in Stora Tuna - an area just outside central Borlänge near the airport

Indeed Dalarna doesn't even have an ambulance helicopter - although perhaps it should for the north of the county!
16:14 August 6, 2011 by jacquelinee
No need to worry. The Swedish justice system will prevail as it always does and the dispatcher will be reprimanded in the Swedish way of dealing with this sort of crime. She will be severly reprimanded with 1 or 2 weeks fully paid vacation (oops! I mean suspension) and then reinstated to her same position to do it all over again.
18:32 August 6, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
16:14 August 6, 2011 by jacquelinee

Are you sure the dispatcher was a she? Not a he? And what about an in between just waiting to come today to Stockholm and watch the parade of the very proud prides?

As of next week, the she/he/it will start working again with full pay, till another call is at her/his/it/ reach.
19:57 August 6, 2011 by KungsholmenGuy
@ Puffin

Thanks for supplying additional information about the incident.

Agree that the SOS operator made an improper determination of this elderly couple's ability to assist (due to their age, and uncertainty about the address), and apparently supplied no indication that the situation was not an urgent one, and possibly this operator did not stay in contact with them to tell them that their assistance was no longer needed.

For the above reasons, the SOS operator can be deemed to have handled the situation in a 'clumsy' way that would have been frustrating to the couple (or anyone in their position), and I would agree further that a social services employee, if reachable at that time, would have been the best choice. Also commendations are due to the elderly couple, for making the effort that they did.

So my view now is that a far better screening mechanism should be put in place at SOS when asking neighbours to assist in situations like these, and (again) only appealing to neighbours if social services cannot be reached, or are too far away. In fairness to the SOS employee, the situation was clearly not an urgent one, and did not require an ambulance to race across town, so his/her common sense solution was not some sort of crime, and it does not imply that he/she would have handled a far more urgent situation in the same way.
22:09 August 6, 2011 by Svensksmith
Does the neighbor get a cut of the take?
05:32 August 7, 2011 by Kaethar
What's the problem here? The calling of the old couple wasn't textbook yet to not send an ambulance to this woman was the correct call. Do people seriously believe ambulances should be sent out for every little thing? Do people not realise how much that would cost? If someone "desperately" needs transport they simply have to order a taxi and pay for it themselves. Ambulances are there for cases deemed emergencies.

As for this case it should have been Social Services who should have gone to help her. Why the SOS person didn't call them is a mystery...
11:22 August 7, 2011 by jacquelinee
@ Kaethar

@ Do people seriously believe ambulances should be sent out for every little thing? Do people not realise how much that would cost? Wo gives a SH IT how much it will cost for the love of god! When someone is scared enough to call and amulance it is not for a hangnail! We pay high taxes in this country for medical care, very high taxes. An ambulance should be dispatched every time. Get rid of some of those useless studies like " Study shows which swedish dialects are sexier" and the ever so stupid "think tanks" and put that monety into ambulances. Calling some neibours to do the medical proffessions job is absolutely ridicuolous!!!!! But, I know, I know I KNOW...."Sweden has the best medical care in the world" Bawk! bawk! Polly wants a cracker. Bawk! they say with their little brainwashed parrot voices.
17:09 August 7, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
05:32 August 7, 2011 by Kaethar

I hope that you do not face a moment where you need an ambulance and it does not arrive because the dispatcher considered your case of no importance, calls someone who lives in the wilderness to go and take a look at you. In the meantime,

you might die. This is irrelevant, because, as you stated, "If someone "desperately" needs transport they simply have to order a taxi and pay for it themselves. Ambulances are there for cases deemed emergencies.".

I hope that when times come, you have enough money to pay the taxi.
08:50 August 8, 2011 by Observant
It is time to disband this SOS Alarm organisation as they are becoming a rule onto themselves in all emergency matters.

But there they are just following the likes of every other organisation - government and civil - on all things that they do.

Give the Service to the Red Cross who MIGHT be able to do the job better.
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