Tele: Save triple-0 for saving lives: Stupid reasons for emergency calls revealed

A nightmare about work, a stubbed toe and nappy rash are just some of the trivial calls pulling triple-0 call takers away from real emergencies.

NSW Police and Ambulance have seen a steady increase in emergency calls in the past few years but almost a quarter of those are unnecessary.

And they range from outright hoaxes to the downright absurd.

“I had a call last shift where someone had a nightmare,” call taker Rosemary Tomkins told The Sunday Telegraph.

“I thought potentially this was a mental health thing but it turns out it was just a nightmare and they couldn’t go back to sleep.”

The caller wanted an ambulance to bring him sleeping pills.

Ms Tomkins said in life and death scenarios, the five minutes spent explaining why an ambulance isn’t required for a nightmare can keep her away from real emergencies.

“You’ll be sort of sitting on a call with someone who is potentially being really argumentative or difficult, and you’ll see that there’s ten plus calls waiting in the queue to be answered … in the back of your head, you’re thinking one of those calls or more of those calls could be a cardiac arrest,” she said.

On average the triple-0 nerve centre receives about 38 hoax calls daily — or more than 14,000 in the past year alone.

On Sunday, NSW Police and NSW Ambulance launch the ‘Save triple-0 for saving lives’ campaign to deter people from using the emergency line for trivial reasons.

“Over the last six weeks, there is no doubt our paramedics have experience significant workload and are responding really well,” NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said.

“But it is quite evident some of these calls were for a range of trivial matters that would be better dealt with by other mechanisms.”

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When Mr Morgan was on the road as a paramedic, he recalled responding to a triple-0 call for a bleeding pimple.

Ambulance control room assistant and communications team leader Nick Boxall recalled a stressed father calling triple-0 about a nappy rash.

“If you’ve got a baby with nappy rash, all you’ve got to do is put nappy cream on, you can do that yourself … why are you being aggressive to me and my colleagues?” he recalled.

Mr Boxall said callers often believed they were entitled to ambulance services, and that arriving at hospital in an ambulance was a golden ticket to the front of the queue.

For NSW Police, 150,000 of the almost 800,000 triple-0 calls it received in the past 12 months were for non-emergencies.

“When the caller is unsure of where they are – or how to describe it – call-processing times can be longer,” NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Rashelle Conroy said.

“So to ensure there’s always an operator available for any emergency, we’re reminding the community to save triple-0 for saving lives.”

Non-emergency phone numbers – like the Police Assistance Line (131 444) – or for medical situations, consulting a GP, should be used for non-emergencies.

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