national

Kobe firefighters ask residents to stop calling emergency numbers for trivial reasons like sunburns

31 Comments
By Preston Phro, RocketNews24

We’ve all heard stories about absurd calls to emergency lines, from people calling about a bat in the house to a missing newspaper delivery. We like to think that these people aren’t stupid so much as too frustrated to think clearly…though we may be wrong.

Of course, Japan isn’t free of these kinds of silly emergency calls, either. In fact, a recent article received a lot of attention online when it listed some of the simply absurd emergency calls that have been made in Kobe City. Check them out below…

Kobe City, Japan’s sixth largest city by population, isn’t exactly a quiet country village, but it’s still a bit of a surprise to learn that they are on track to have over 80,000 ambulance dispatches this year. They passed 53,000 cases earlier this month and, if they do hit the expected number, will pass the all-time high of 78,393 cases. That’s a lot of calls to 119, Japan’s fire fighter/ambulance emergency service. (110 is the number for the police.)

Of course, many of these cases are legitimate, but that doesn’t mean that absurd emergency calls aren’t annoying local emergency workers. One example cited by the Sankei article includes the story of a woman who called complaining that her “chest hurt.” But when rescue workers arrived on the scene, they discovered she was speaking in a metaphorical sense as she explained that she was just feeling lonely that night. There have also been multiple cases of people calling because they wanted “to go to the hospital, but” they had “been drinking.” We’re glad they didn’t try to drink and drive at least…

Other calls filed under the “what the hell are you calling 119 for?” heading include someone phoning because they “got a bad sunburn and [their] skin hurt.” Someone else apparently called because they got a mosquito bite.

It has become so bad, in fact, that the city fire department has officially asked people to “stop calling 119 for small things and to only use the ambulance services appropriately.”

According to the department, part of the general increase in the number of ambulance dispatches seems to the rising number of elderly people living alone. Obviously, not every absurd call is coming from an aged person, but with more people of advanced age living by themselves, there’s not much they can do but call 119 when they have a problem, however minor. In an attempt to improve the situation, the city has set up a “care line,” which partly involves cooperating neighbors going to help when possible.

Sadly, this situation has also had an impact on the efficiency of ambulances in Kobe. In 2008, it took rescue workers about five minutes and 40 seconds to reach their destination, on average. Last year that time was up to six minutes and 50 seconds. That’s a pretty big difference and, in the case of heart attacks, a minute can reduce the chances of resuscitation by as much as 10%.

Sources: Hachimakikou, Sankei, Kobe City

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Four Tokyo “Nap Cafes” Where You Can Go for a few Winks (So You Aren’t Caught Falling Asleep at Work) -- “You’re taking peeping photos, aren’t you?” Smartphone extortion scam hits hard in Shinjuku -- We’re going bananas over these amazing Attack on Titan…bananas

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


31 Comments
Login to comment

According to the department, part of the general increase in the number of ambulance dispatches seems to the rising number of elderly people living alone.

So what measures are being taken to deal with this? Are there phone help lines in place for the lonely and elderly? Are there adequate support services for them, perhaps provided by a not-for-profit organization or by the state? Or are their concerns, real or imagined, being dismissed because they're seen as a burden by their too busy to care families and/or a burden on taxpayers.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

advertise an information number. Get a mascot going

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Some people are selfish to think they need an ambulance for minor things.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Get a mascot going

Oh, please no, not another one... Just educate people like they are grown-ups, not 3-year-old kids... And them maybe they will start thinking as adults.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@PTownsend. I agree with you on the sentiment that it's sad that the elderly have to face problems such as loneliness and declining physical health but your post seems to suggest that this problem exists because people are to selfish or apathetic. First, phone helplines, support groups and NGO/NPOs require money, usually from taxes, and there is none left. It is common (and unspoken) knowledge that the Nenkin (Social Security) System is bust and anyone over the age of 40 is going to get far less than they paid if they get anything at all. As for volunteers, please remember that the average person in Japan is working far longer and harder than ever for less and less money. Lifetime employment is now a thing of the past. Having children? Forget about it. When you're in your forties and stuggling to live from part-time paycheck to part-time paycheck, you just don't have the time or energy to worry about an elderly person suffering from loneliness. On the one hand, Japan has always taken pride in its longevity but on the other hand, this very situation was predicted and the predictions are ringing true.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

just hang up on them!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I once hurt my foot went to a Koban to ask where the nearest hospital was, the policeman rang a ambulance, it came super quick with all sirens on, I was so embarrassed

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Charge about ¥40,000 for the call in such a case....the calls will decrease.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Another problem is that some of the elderly use an ambulance as their own personal taxi service. For some senior citizens, a trip to hospital is as much a trip to the local community centre as it is a place to cure their ailments.

I think part of the problem is that there is no GP system in Japan (at least not in a way that I am familiar with). Farming out the routine work to clinics and keeping the hospitals for in-patients and A&E services would help alleviate this problem, as would encouraging the elderly to use taxis (perhaps at a reduced rate).

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Institute a voicemail system that routes calls to paramedics based on the seriousness of the complaint. The less serious the complaint, the longer the route through the system. Nuisance calls result in an infinite loop.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

We have to address the problem at its source - the overwhelming sense of entitlement the elderly have here, stemming from years of social hierarchy. It's an emergency service, not a free-to-use entitlement. You're not owed a damn thing & the young will have to foot the medical & pension system costs for generations to come.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

if you had to pay for misuse that would slow things down

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If you have ever gone to the doctor after like Obon for example, the office is filled with lonely old people. Most are not sick. Japan has become a lonely place for so many.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"We have to address the problem at its source - the overwhelming sense of entitlement the elderly have here, stemming from years of social hierarchy. It's an emergency service, not a free-to-use entitlement. You're not owed a damn thing & the young will have to foot the medical & pension system costs for generations to come."

Wish I could give you more than just one thumb up. Well said.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think this is rather time spent into the ambulance trying to find the hospital that will accept you.

Sadly, this situation has also had an impact on the efficiency of ambulances in Kobe. In 2008, it took rescue workers >about five minutes and 40 seconds to reach their destination, on average. Last year that time was up to six minutes and >50 seconds. That’s a pretty big difference and, in the case of heart attacks, a minute can reduce the chances of >resuscitation by as much as 10%.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As many have pointed out, the elderly view the waiting room of their local doctor as a place to interact with other geriatrics. Moreover, doctors who specialize in geriatric medicine encourage such behavior because it allows them to confirm that there patients are living (especially those who live alone), and it also allows them to invoice the national health insurance system for at least the basic consultation fee.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I think this is the price to pay to save lives, we have to accept a small quota of none emergency but I am not sure why nobody is filtering, I mean, you do need to be rocket genius to ask "mosquito bite you ? this is not an emergency unless you may develop a reaction...blabla" Come on, where is the common sense. You can't ask people to asses themselves if they really need or not emergency. I feel like they want to put an auto-censorship a kind of "thank you but next don't call please".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Easy solution. First post on TV, Radio and newspaper explain what types of 119 calls are OK and what are not and include what the cost is for calling in non emergency type calls. Tell Japanese residents that if they don't understand the system they will receive a 50,000 yen bill for each and every mistaken call.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

According to the department, part of the general increase in the number of ambulance dispatches seems to the rising >number of elderly people living alone.

I guess we already had a hint/clue about what some politician are planning for elderly people, thanks they are not part in the ruling power, oh wait, actually they are.... what a cold selfish society we re living where money prime over everything :

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/22/elderly-hurry-up-die-japanese

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In my city (Canada) false alarms are fined to the caller.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Citizen2012 Thanks for that link. Politicians who go to the infamous military shrines and pray for souls but ignore those who survived the war and even wish for a speedier death for them are as cynical as politicians can be.

I hope those who see the elderly as a burden of some sort don't have elder relatives and never get old themselves, unless of course they have the wealth to have someone look after them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think people calling because they're feeling lonely should not be included here. If a visit from the emergency crews avoided a suicide, then it was all for a good cause, and well worth the money and time spent. Frivolous calls are something else.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Even a modest co-payment - say, Y1,000 and cash so it's clear where it's coming from, though payable later in case of a real emergency - would nip this in the bud.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

There needs to be an official law against nuisance calls like this, and a hefty fine for those who abuse it. Because of calls like these here, ambulance service from the FD which is now free is supposedly going to be a for-pay service in the near future, and NOT billable to one's insurance.

Costs that are being tossed around are between 15,000 to 30,000 per call.

Even a modest co-payment - say, Y1,000 and cash so it's clear where it's coming from, though payable later in case of a real emergency - would nip this in the bud.

No it wont.....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Sadly, this situation has also had an impact on the efficiency of ambulances in Kobe. In 2008, it took rescue workers about five minutes and 40 seconds to reach their destination, on average. Last year that time was up to six minutes and 50 seconds. That’s a pretty big difference and, in the case of heart attacks, a minute can reduce the chances of resuscitation by as much as 10%."

Easy solution. A one million yen fine for any hoax or illegitimate calls, and the onus is on the caller to know better. So, if the ambulance shows up and find that the woman was only "speaking metaphorically" about her chest hurting, slap a fine on her and tell her next time to call a dating service. The mosquito bite? one million yen and maybe throw in a bottle of anti-itch spray.

The fact that people are in danger of serious damage and/or losing their lives because of stupid callers, and the amount of money these calls cost since ambulance rides are included in the health care coverage (which I agree with, except when abused), there definitely needs to be some sort of punishment. I think a fine, and jail time for repeated calls, is absolutely necessary.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The easiest way is to charge people for stupid or non emergency call outs, say 40,000 yen thats £220 ish? that will cut down on these silly type of calls, also in the UK we have a non emergency call line, it is maned by ex nurses, or medically trained people, this way they can roughly asses weather its a non or an emergency situation, and give out advice over the telephone this is open 14/7 even when you can't call in to see your local doctor. could this be a good solution to this problem?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

But when rescue workers arrived on the scene, they discovered she was speaking in a metaphorical sense as she explained that she was just feeling lonely that night.

I think she might as well have called a handyman on the phone instead of calling for an ambulance. I hear that these days 便利屋 or (handymen /caretakers) provide such an elderly person with companionship, yes, keeping them company when they feel lonely.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

According to the department, part of the general increase in the number of ambulance dispatches seems to the rising number of elderly people living alone.

Ask the age of the caller and if over 70 just hang up. Simple.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

So many of Japan's problems come from misallocation of resources

3 ( +3 / -0 )

but with more people of advanced age living by themselves, there’s not much they can do but call 119

While japanese often boasts of their longevity, there are drawbacks. If I were an EMT here, iLMAO to sunburns and mosquito bites.

I once hurt my foot went to a Koban to ask where the nearest hospital was, the policeman rang a ambulance

That too. You'd think cops here have more common sense.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The fact that people are in danger of serious damage and/or losing their lives because of stupid callers, and the amount of money these calls cost since ambulance rides are included in the health care coverage (which I agree with, except when abused), there definitely needs to be some sort of punishment. I think a fine, and jail time for repeated calls, is absolutely necessary.

Agrred

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites