Life threatening waiting times at Dutch emergency number during peaks: Inspectorates
The call centers for national emergency number 112 and Ambulance Amsterdam are not up to the task of handling a peak in callers, according to an investigation into the availability of these call centers during a massive power outage in Amsterdam and surrounds in January. This resulted in life-threateningly long waiting times, Het Parool reports.
The investigation was done by the Inspectorates for Healthcare and Security and Justice and the Telecom Agency. The investigators concluded that the availability of 112 falls short during great peaks and must improve.
According to the investigators, the power outage was hours of chaos in which barely any measures were taken to cope with the many callers. In one case the waiting time ran up to 21 minutes, with fatal results. 369 people gave up and hung up the phone without getting through. Measures in the guidelines were not implemented. And there was uncertainty in both call centers about who is doing what and when.
Around 4:20 a.m. on January 17th, 2017 the power went out for 360 thousand homes in Amsterdam, Landsmeer, Oostzaan and Zaandam. From 4:19 a.m. the phones at the Amsterdam-Amstelland ambulance service rang non stop. The two controllers on call seemed to have no idea how busy it was. And due to outdated equipment, they also did not know who the next caller would be or how long he or she had been on the line. A third controller was called in and took over 40 minutes to arrive. No help was asked from other regions' call centers.
A total of 57 emergency calls were made to 112. Nine of them were not answered. One man needed immediate help for his mother and called 112. He was on hold for four minutes before being transferred to the Ambulance Amsterdam call center, where he was on hold for another 17 minutes. He eventually gave up and called their GP. When the doctor arrived, the woman was already dead.
In another case a family was on hold for more than three minutes. The woman in this case died on the way to the hospital. But as the ambulance arrived at the home 8 minutes and 12 seconds after the call - within the time limit of 15 minutes - the Healthcare Inspectorate did not investigate the matter further.