Hoax calls to ambulance service putting lives at risk

A dramatic increase in the number of hoax calls to the ambulance service in Kerry has been strongly condemned with a warning such calls could lead to loss of life.

So far this year, there have been 15 false call-outs in the county, compared to just one for all of 2012.

It is believed that some of the callers are removing SIM cards from their mobile phones — it is still possible to call 112 [emergency number] in this case — making the calls impossible to trace.

Independent TD Tom Fleming said the calls were “bordering on the criminal” and pleaded with the culprits to desist. “This is a most unwanted phenomenon and the escalation of false calls is a very worrying trend,” he said.

“There’s always the possibility that an ambulance diverted on a wild goose chase could be needed for an emergency elsewhere and a genuine case might have to wait. That could lead to loss of life.

“These people probably think it’s some kind of joke, but they’re engaging in a very serious exercise. With more awareness of the implications of what they’re doing, hopefully they’ll stop doing it.”

Mr Fleming pointed out that the ambulance service was currently being restructured in Kerry and that staff were adapting to a new system.

“The hoax calls are placing a further burden on the ambulance staff and management who are already under enough pressure,” he said.

“Only a very small number of people are involved in making these calls and I would appeal to them to be more civic-minded and act responsibly like the normal population.”

There were 11 hoax calls in Kerry in 2009, nine in 2010, and eight in 2011.

The HSE said reporting of such calls had increased in recent years, as systems had improved.

The ambulance control system is now located centrally in Townsend St, Dublin, but, prior to 2010, reporting was not collated and was paper-based with a manual system in each local office.

Martin Dunne, director of the National Ambulance Service, said the NAS responded to every call it received and he appealed to people not to make hoax calls to emergency services.

Such activity put unnecessary additional demands on the service and could result in medical assistance to a genuine caller being compromised, he said.

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