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Patient dies after ambulance delayed due to dispatcher getting address wrong

27 Comments

An emergency services staff member at a Tokyo fire station in Tachikawa city misheard the dispatch address, causing a delay in the ambulance’s arrival and ability to provide care for the patient, who later died, police reported Monday.

At around 7:20 a.m. on Monday, the Tokyo Fire Department Tachikawa Fire Station station received a report of a medical emergency in Tachikawa city’s Kashiwacho area, Fuji TV reported. However, the dispatcher, a 48-year-old man who took the emergency call, said he mistakenly heard “Sakaecho” and dispatched an ambulance to a different area.

Emergency services staff eventually realized the mistake, but the ambulance arrived at the correct address after a 14-minute delay.

The patient, a 73-year-old man, was found in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest and was taken to a hospital, but was later pronounced dead.

According to police, emergency services staff are required to clarify an address twice prior to dispatching any personnel, though in this case the worker only asked once. He also failed to ask for the telephone number of caller (the man's wife).

At this stage, it is not clear whether the patient died as a result of the ambulance delay.

A representative of the Tokyo Fire Department apologized for the incident, saying that “a case of this kind should never occur.”

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27 Comments
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No caller ID? No phone number-based address search (which Japanese car navigation systems have)?

Once again, public sector tech lagging far behind what consumers take for granted, it seems.

9 ( +8 / -0 )

A representative of the Tokyo Fire Department apologized for the incident, saying that “a case of this kind should never occur.”

Ya think??

But not to worry. Do a few deep bows, promise to investigate and retrain all of your workers, and all should be fine. The Japanese version of Catholic confession.

In all seriousness, this is horrible. Not unique to Japan, of course. Nevertheless, very tragic, particularly if the delay as ultimately responsible for the patient's death.

Condolences to the family for their loss. And definitely go after the government with a lawsuit.

2 ( +5 / -2 )

'A representative of the Tokyo Fire Department apologized for the incident, saying that “a case of this kind should never occur.”'

But it most certainly will again when nothing but a bow and apology are done. Sorry, but we hear about ambulance delays resulting in deaths ALL THE TIME here, be they pregnant ladies or the elderly, like this man. I recommend the family sue, but we all know instead the local fire department will offer them a million yen or so 'compensation' to keep quiet, and the case would never be allowed to move forward by the government.

RIP to the victim, who may very well have died because rules aren't followed and people aren't punished for not doing so here.

0 ( +4 / -3 )

Maybe if streets in Japan had names and logical numbering....

14 ( +17 / -4 )

He also failed to ask for the telephone number of caller (the man’s wife)

They don't have caller ID? really?

7 ( +7 / -1 )

I think we are jumping the gun here; yes this should never happen and yes there should be tech in play that gets caller ID...but that said, that is not foolproof- if I use my cell at a friend's house the caller ID will be useless. Similarly I do not have a land line at my home...so I should reasonably expect the emergency crew to be relying soley on the words that exit my mouth.

All that said, I would be making doubly sure what I am saying is being understood, including relevant landmarks and other fixed information like my postal code.

Anyway, basically saying we are assuming a lot here to be damning the emergency people. Might as well assume the caller is an elderly woman with a lisp while we're at it.

Not saying the victim /caller is to blame...just should have been more confirmation on both sides on whatever data was given.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

At this stage, it is not clear whether the patient died as a result of the ambulance delay.

So, what does the headline say it was?

Moderator: The headline doesn't say that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Maybe if ambulances in Japan were reserved for emergencies rather than being all-too-often taxi services for hypochondriacs....

3 ( +6 / -2 )

Tony Alderman,

Maybe if streets in Japan had names and logical numbering....

My thoughts entirely. I don't know why someone gave you a "bad" rating.

Anybody who has ever tried to find an address has come up against this incredible confusion of Japanese "addresses." Everywhere else on the planet has road names clearly labeled and house numbers in sequence along the roads. Only Japan has this weird system of Chome's and Banchi's. In many cities what Chome you are in is not even posted anywhere. Or if it is, it's obscured by an ad for viagra.

Supposing you wanted to report an accident:

"There's been an accident. Please send an ambulance quickly!"

"Yes, of course. Where are you, sir?"

"Um. Beats me! There's a Family Mart on the other side of the road."

It's about time Japan's transport minister - if there is one - brought Japan's street system into the 21st century.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

smithinjapan JAN. 26, 2016 - 03:26PM JST RIP to the victim, who may very well have died because rules aren't followed and people aren't punished for not doing so here.

Who are you going to punish? Annually, there are over 16,000 people in serious condition that were refused admission by hospitals three times or more during ambulance transport. In Japan, there are no clear guidelines in hospitals to refuse patients. Physical violence and verbal abuse directed at doctors, nurses and staff members is a problem in some hospitals. Longs waits and stress are often the trigger for incidents. The Japan health care system is very inefficient and wasteful and they have the longest hospital stays in the world. Patients often stay in the hospital much longer than they need to. Japanese people are prescribed a lot of medicines, and often get a lot of tests they don’t need simple because the know that heath insurance will pay for it. Japan health care system will go bankrupt in few decades unless major change take place.

5 ( +5 / -1 )

The articles fails to mention when the ambulance actually arrived at the wrong address. When I had a bike accident I was sitting bleeding on the street for 55min until the ambulance arrived. Another 25min in the ambulance at the accident site until the driver found a hospital which would accept me. Add another 20min until arrival in a hospital. That ambulance staff are not allowed to do any sensible emergency procedures compounds the problem, especially in a case like the above.

6 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm surprised a case like this would make the news, to be honest. There are far worse ones out there. My student's uncle suffered a stroke, and was driven around in the ambulance for one whole hour while the dispatcher desperately tried to find a hospital that was able to accept him. He died.

Tip of the iceberg.

2 ( +3 / -2 )

When my father-in-law was in his last stages of cancer and home care was clearly no longer an option, I loaded him onto a futon in the back of my van at midnight and drove him to the hospital myself. The staff were astonished - as was I at their astonishment: this was chronic, not acute, and the last thing he wanted was to bid farewell to his house in a blaze of radio calls and flashing lights

When my wife fell and gashed her head, I wrapped it in a towel and drove her to the closest emergency room. The staff were astonished, but I got there a good half-hour more quickly than if I'd called an ambulance.

It's called "common sense." Restrict ambulances to acute cases and such mistakes would be far less likely.

6 ( +5 / -0 )

Dispatchers are human, humans make mistakes. Unfortunately this dispatcher did not follow proper protocol. Even though dispatchers work under great pressure still well-trained dispatchers make mistakes. In the end these dispatchers aren't being trained under the highest standards so there seems to be a training short-fall.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Dispatchers are human, humans make mistakes.

This very true, but when your mistakes can lead to people's death during your work and you are fully aware about it and you do not follow the proper protocol, it sounds logical that you must be blamed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

With a cell phone they have your GPS data which is very good. A home phone should be cross-referenced with location data (on EMS computer) and verified by the dispatcher when you call them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But then they have to factor in the extra two or three hours it would take to find a hospital willing to take an emergency case.

A while back I fell unconscious at a station. I was later told that the paramedics had come, but they'd left even before I had fully gained consciousness. Thanks for nothing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cell phone at a friend's house would not be an issue. When you dial an emergency number your phone goes into an emergency mode and sends your location to the dispatcher via GPS. Emergency mode disables other functions of the phone as well so that you do not lose connection to the dispatcher.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am amazed that people are talking about issues with the Japanese address system. As if that is even an issue in this day and age.

If you have the correct address, the idea of having difficulty finding someone's house or apartment is just crazy. Google Maps? Apple maps? Car navi? Mapion?? Punch in the address and it takes you right there. With point by point driving instructions if you need them.

As opposed to the dispatcher having the wrong address. I'm sorry, but if the address the dispatcher hears is 20 Downing Street as opposed to 10 Downing Street, the result will be the same. Going to the wrong address. The issue around Japan's address system is complete nonsense. And irrelevant here.

And by the way, the Japanese address system is amazingly logical. If you understand it. Spend 2 hours with a map book and it becomes readily apparent. I could navigate myself anywhere in Japan with an address.... and a map book. Back when there was no Google Maps.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

And by the way, the Japanese address system is amazingly logical. If you understand it. Spend 2 hours with a map book and it becomes readily apparent.

The system that the central government has imposed on most of the major cities in the last 50 years is logical enough... if you're a bureaucrat looking at a map, with most of the local neighborhood names stripped away and all its neat boxes-within-boxes-within-boxes, like one of those Russian matryoshka dolls. Block 3, sub-block 12, sub-sub-block 27. (And that doesn't even indicate a specific building, mind you; the number goes up every ten meters, so if there are two front doors within 10m of each other, both houses will bear the same number!)

It's nowhere near as navigable when you're standing on a street corner and you've got a house marked 2-8-15 on one side of you and 1-13-11 on the other. If you're looking for, say, 2-12-9, you can home in on it and eventually get there. But what a hassle! And memorizing a series of three numbers like this is more taxing than memorizing a single four- or five-digit number, such as 21209. (One great study examining this is Stanislas Dehaene's "The Number Sense", in which he criticizes France for doing their telephone numbers in a hard-to-remember way.)

And to think that the Japanese -- in the capital of Kyoto, laid out 1200 years ago -- had a perfectly usable system which predated Western street names by centuries! There you always know where something is: you know what street it's on, what the nearest cross street is, and what direction it is from that cross street. You then get a neighborhood name and number basically as a redundant backup. It's great. It should be the model for the entire country. I wouldn't be surprised if, even with all the tiny alleyways and cobblestones, the city of Kyoto does better than in Tokyo with emergency dispatchers just because of the straights streets and human-friendly address system.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Here in England we get mistakes of this nature. They will always crop-up simply because of human error above all else. 14 minutes is not much of a time period compared to the delays we get here. In fact, our record of mistakes leading to deaths are quite common, making our National Health Service a blundering mess.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I was in an ambulance recently. I did not even see an AED device. Plus there were no available beds in the hospitals they called. So, it was once again, hallway health hacking 101.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

sfjp330: Well said.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All you self entitled spoiled people are acting like emergency services are a right, but they are not. Just because you have an accident or a medical emergency doesn't mean that you deserve immediate medical attention. Yes, it is wonderful that we live in a place where emergency medical services are available, but this doesn't mean you can put demands on them. There is no evidence that if the ambulance arrived 14 minutes earlier, that this man would have survived. I get so tired of people throwing around blame for things millions of people in other countries would be incredibly thankful for having.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

All you self entitled spoiled people are acting like emergency services are a right, but they are not.

We are paying into the national insurance, which is used to provide emergency services. So yes, they should be a right, since we are paying for them.

Just because you have an accident or a medical emergency doesn't mean that you deserve immediate medical attention.

We are paying for that, so yes, we do deserve it.

I get so tired of people throwing around blame for things millions of people in other countries would be incredibly thankful for having.

If people in other countries are paying for these as well, then they should also be angry if they are not getting these services.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If a dispatcher bungled an emergency call they will get disciplined with a suspension or unpaid suspension or a written or oral reprimand and be ordered to have additional training.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The sytem needs radical revision and tightening.

The poor medics and drivers are probably doing their best, but they could be given a lot more leeway, to drive faster than the speed limit etc. In my case my J wife was in the ambulance with me and got me admitted even though the crew had been told no.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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