FIRST AID GETS PHONE CALLS BY TIPSY JOKERS
When waiting for the ambulance each minute seems as long as an hour to the patient's relatives, dispatchers in the centre for emergency medical aid in Sofia say. This is First Aid's most occupied unit in the entire country. Twenty five medical teams are on duty every day in the Sofia-based centre. Eight telephone operators accept calls to phone number 150. This is quite insufficient for the capital city, doctors are adamant, but there is no money for more. In order to facilitate the work of emergency teams, the ambulance cars are linked in a GPS system that traces each vehicle in real time. Thus, the team which is closest to a certain address visits the respective patient. During the Christmas, new year and other big holidays, there are additional ambulance cars on duty, said Dr. Rumyana Koleva, Deputy Director of the Sofia-based centre for emergency medical aid. Independent of the efforts of First Aid in Sofia, there are always discontented people. Dispatchers answering number 150 play the role of a buffer. Every day there are some 800-1,200 calls to 150 and 088 150. The most frequent calls come in the intervals between 18.00 - 20.00 hrs., 22.00 - 24.00 hrs., and 02.00 - 04.00 hrs.Not a small part of the calls, however, are by people seeking non-standard fun, phone operators complain. At least four or five hours of each 12-hour shift are filled by parasite calls which concern anything but emergency cases. At least 10% of the calls are false, statistics show. The numerous jokes are mostly due to the fact that the number is pay-free independently if the call comes from a mobile or a stationary phone. It can be dialled even from a phone which has been stopped because of an overdue bill. It has happened that more than 400 calls had come from one and the same number, at that within a few hours. False signals create the most serious problems. For instance they call us to tell about a grave accident which has not occurred in fact. That costs to the emergency centre at least BGN35, not to speak about the lost time. The most recent such case was some weeks ago when a child called 150 to inform about a serious accident at Gornobanski Pat. Two teams were sent and a third one was kept as a reserve. The joke cost us BGN200 and the ambulance cars were occupied for more than 40 minutes. That could be fatal if there was a real accident at the same time, Dr. Koleva commented bitterly. Jokers' most frequent question to the fire squad is Do you have water?, and they usually ask First Aid: Do you have oxygen?. In the early morning hours there are dozens of calls from drowsy people wanting to know what time it is. After mid-night comes the time of another kind of nuisances who attack mainly female phone operators. Each night they have to endure dozens of indecent proposals. Some swear, other moan and groan as if they have called a sex telephone, phone operators say. Some of them alrеady have long lists of such clients' numbers. After several false calls from one and the same mobile phone number, it's access to the emergency line is automatically blocked. But calls continue from the phone of another person. Abuses and insults are not heard over the telephone alone, but also directly, on the spot on the arrival of the medical team. Delays, however, are not always its fault. Frequently, the callers forget to mention the exact address, others do not come in front of the block of flats to welcome the ambulance. Doctors also have unpleasant encounters with drunkards who decide to lie down for a while near a bus stop. Some citizens call for an ambulance in such a case, but when the medical team arrives the soaker usually says: Why have you come? I haven't called an ambulance.There have also been calls from people asking politely: I do not have money to go downtown. Can't you possibly send me an ambulance to drive me there? It has also happened that elderly ladies have shopped at the market or filled big bottles of mineral water from a tap and call First Aid to say they were feeling faint. However, the emergency teams have found they were picking from the streets one and the same women and have already come to know the actresses. Calls from mobile phones using cards with prepaid impulses have become more frequent recently. Their numbers are not registered to anyone, so the tracing of telephone terrorists is impossible. Things are more simple regarding calls from digital or analogue BTC lines. Aftre several false calls these telephone number are reported to the police. But it seems the sanctions are not sufficiently severe, as shortly afterwards the nuisances are again on the line.