Ambulances being exploited

A large proportion of the citizens who call the National First Aid Center (EKAB) are not in any need of urgent medical attention but merely want a free ride to a hospital, help for an injured pet or information about duty hospitals, the chief of EKAB’s emergency service has told Kathimerini. Of some 10,000 calls made to the emergency medical service per day in Attica alone, about 90 percent are not to request an ambulance but information about duty hospitals (which can be acquired by calling 1434) or advice for everyday ailments, service chief Costas Ouranis said. Some people, particularly the elderly, even call just for a chat, he said, noting that most calls are made between noon and 4 p.m. «Citizens should not abuse the EKAB services and must realize that EKAB’s priority is to respond to emergency cases where immediate medical care is required,» Ouranis said. Of the 1,000 transfers carried out by EKAB ambulances on a daily basis, about 20 percent are scheduled runs for patients with chronic ailments who need to be treated at various hospitals or for patient discharges. The remaining 80 percent are theoretically emergency cases but, according to Ouranis, this is not actually the case. «Apart from the real emergency cases, such as victims of car crashes and heart attacks, the rest of those calling an ambulance could quite easily get to the hospital using different means, as they do not require medical support during the journey to hospital,» Ouranis said. According to the EKAB chief, citizens have called the emergency number to complain about «something in their eye» and to seek aid for an injured cat or dog. Often, when the service refuses to send out an ambulance in such cases, callers will complain that they are entitled to the service «as citizens who pay their social security contribution,» Ouranis said. There are also many who regard themselves as regular customers of the service with some calling an ambulance once a month. These individuals either want to avoid queuing at the hospital or may not have the money for a taxi, he said.

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