I was reading today about a woman in England who has been jailed for two years for making 672 hoax calls to the ambulance service over a year.
This comes a few months after another woman was jailed for a year after spending 59 hours on the ‘phone making false claims about her health to the emergency services.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a paramedic a few years ago on the one occasion I made the trip to A&E by ambulance. (Heartbeat was over 300BPM)
On an earlier visit (I’ve been 18 times and in case you think I was wasting their time, I was admitted on every occasion with serious lung infections) I had heard a young doctor confront a man with his past.
You hear every word in a packed A&E word. And we could all hear this man prevaricating when asked simple questions about his lifestyle.
The young doctor gave up. But she returned an hour later with a few more questions for the man.
“Did you ever had a CAT scan in Drogheda?” she asked. But before he could answer, she continued the question, “Mullingar, Sligo, Castlebar, Galway, Limerick, Killarney, Cork, Waterford…”
“I, I, I don’t remember Waterford.”
There had been 14 scans in all.
And while the man clearly needed help, he didn’t need to have another CAT scan, taking someone else’s place in the queue and wasting resources.
Anyway, on my next visit I got talking to a paramedic.
“Do you get many messers?” I asked.
He paused for a minute.
“I shouldn’t tell you,” he said. “But we do have a few we call ‘frequent fliers,” he said.
“So what are the top three?” I asked.
He told me that what the patient might say to them, wasn’t what the 999 operator had been told.
“We had one guy who told us, when he was in the ambulance, that his problem was insomnia. Seriously.
“Then we had another guy who, once he was safely in the ambulance, told his what his problem was. He’d watched a scary movie and didn’t want to be on his own.”
I wondered what could outdo that to take the number one spot.
“It was about two in the morning,” he said. “And we got a call to go to a house where there was a young mother and her child. What she said on her emergency call doesn’t matter. It’s what she said when we got there.”
I was still wondering.
“She answered the front door. And I asked her what was wrong.
“She said that when she tried to bring her baby upstairs earlier, it had hurt her arm. Would I mind carrying the baby up for her?”
And we wonder why the health service has problems.
There’s one reason.
Or rather, four.