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scandal

SOS-Alarm ignores dying man

Published torsdag 21 april 2011 kl 16.17

The story of a 23 year old man that rang the Swedish emergency services complaining of feeling faint and being unable to breathe, only to be turned away, and later found dead by his door has once again featured in the Swedish media today.

Despite the fact that several investigations are underway a transcript of the call was released to the press, and it makes chilling reading, as time and time again the 23 year old tries to persuade a nurse on the other end of the line to send the an ambulance, only for the nurse to question his symptoms.

The conversation starts with the man telling an operator that he has a fever and that he can't breathe. He drops the phone several times and heavy breathing can be heard, before a male nurse takes over the call.

SOS-Alarm: I don't really understand what you want help with because you are running around the apartment or whatever it is and you are breathing without any problems and can speak without any problem.

23 year old: I can hardly breathe now.

SOS-Alarm: I know, I've been listening and I can hear that you're breathing easily.

23 year old: No, I'm fainting, I'm fainting! Is the ambulance coming?

SOS-Alarm: No.

23 year old: But I need an ambulance!

SOS-Alarm: Yeah, but I don't understand why you're running around and saying...

23 year old: I dropped the mobile, please, I can't breathe!

SOS-Alarm: Yes, but you're breathing fine now. Have you had attacks like this before?

23 year old: No

SOS-Alarm: No?

23 year old: I need an ambulance, please.

SOS-Alarm: Yes but...

23 year old: I can't breathe!

SOS-Alarm: Can you take a deep breath?

23 year old: No!

SOS-Alarm: But try to take a deep breath while I'm here.

23 year old: I can't.

SOS-Alarm: Come on, take a deep breath!

23 year old: I can't! Help me! Please! Help me!

A part of the conversation published in today's papers in Sweden. The conversation continues for a few more minutes, with the man continuing to plead for an ambulance, only for the nurse to respond that he can hear that he is breathing. At the end of the call the phone is dropped to the ground, and all that can be heard on the tape is gurgling and a moan. Not even then did the nurse send an ambulance, instead passing on the case to a local mobile doctor, who tried to call the 23 year old several times, but with no answer.

The man was found dead two hours by a neighbour by his front door, he had died from a ruptured spleen.

The nurse was fired, and the whole incident has been reported to the authorities, and the family of the dead man have filed a complaint with the police. In an open letter to the local health authorities in Stockholm, the man's family have called for an investigation into how the emergency services number works, and for changes to be implemented so that ambulances can be sent out sooner.

Johan Hedensiö, the head of the company in charge of the SOS-Alarm phone line, as it's called here, spoke to Swedish Radio this morning, where he apologised for the incident.

"It's a terrible tragedy", he said, "and of course all of us working with the line are distressed. There was a fault on our part and on the the part of the nurse that answered the call".

"He has been fired because he didn't stick to the guidelines and routines that we have for a case like this. I can't give too many details", he adds, "but he didn't follow the guidelines for how the interview should be conducted so you get a good idea of the symptoms so help can be sent."

Johan Hedensiö adds that the nurse, who HAS since been fired, is feeling bad about what has happened, and after hearing a recording of the conversation understands what went wrong. The company is now fully co-operating with the various investigations into the death.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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