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999 service at breaking point ..but we're obliged to send an ambulance for a broken nail; Stressed staff furious over time-wasters.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE BY ALANA FEARON

TIME-WASTERS are dialling 999 over broken finger nails, ingrown toe nails and even looking for a lift home after a night out.

Our emergency services are stretched to breaking point due to unprecedented staff and budget cuts.

But because everyone in Ireland is entitled to an ambulance, control room staff have to send one out even if it's for a broken nail.

Despite the well-documented strain on resources, gormless members of the public are regularly making ludicrous calls to paramedics for ridiculous reasons.

And shockingly, emergency staff could actually land themselves in hot water by failing to treat the time-wasters.

The brainless 999 calls include:

A girl who phoned an ambulance because of a broken finger nail

A man who wanted paramedics to treat his ingrown toenails

A caller who had a crick in his neck

Weekend calls from revellers claiming to have been attacked but just wanting to get "a lift" home in an ambulance, and

A nurse whose child had a common vomiting bug but wanted an ambulance as her taxi to the hospital was delayed.

Just days after fed-up ambulance staff told the Dail they were "running on empty", they last night warned senseless call-outs could cost lives because they're diverting paramedics from genuine emergencies.

A source told the Irish Mirror: "Call-outs for problems like ingrown toenails aren't unheard of and we actually even had an emergency call one night from a woman who claimed to have fractured her arm but had just broken a nail.

"Paramedics arrived and she was sitting there all dolled up holding her arm and crying. When we asked her to show us e where the pain was, she showed us her broken nail and said her night out was ruined. It was surreal."

But rather than being guilty of wasting paramedics' limited time and resources, the source insisted these callers believe they're in an emergency.

He added: "People can't see past their own noses.

"You stand in front of them wondering if the penny will drop but they genuinely think they need of emergency treatment and can't see the problem."

A HSE spokeswoman said: "Since 2010 the HSE National Ambulance Service has in place an Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System in all control centres.

"The NAS responds to every call and calls are prioritised using APMDS and as such would appeal to the public to refrain from making hoax calls to all emergency services, as it puts unnecessary additional demand on emergency services.

"Any delay may compromise providing medical assistance to a genuine caller."

On top of this time-wasting scandal, we can reveal call-takers in ambulance control centres earn just [euro]20,000 a year, little more than minimum wage.

The staff - who work 12-hour shifts for three days in a row don't have to have any medical training as they work off an automatic system which sh dta grades emergency calls.

And even if they are medically qualified and know a simple solution, they aren't all't allowed to offer any advice. Another source added: "People may laugh at the ridiculous calls but the tragedy is those who genuinely need ambulances aren't always getting."

alana.fearon@irishmirror.ie

12 The number of hours ambulance call-takers work during a shift

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2014
Words:547
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