Most 999 calls are time-wasters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 February, 2005, 12:00am

People should call 999 only for emergencies, police have emphasised after it was reported that 75 per cent of 3.9 million calls to control centres last year were nuisance or misdialled calls.

'Any abuse of the service will affect the efficiency of the police in handling genuine emergencies,' a spokesman said. 'At worst, it could put lives of people experiencing real emergencies at risk by delaying their access to the 999 service.'

It took a Fire Services Department ambulance 27 minutes to reach the Mid-Levels home of retired corporate director James Barnes, 68, who died of a heart attack on January 18. It took almost an hour after the emergency call for Barnes to reach a hospital.

Former legislator Lo Wing-lok said unfortunate cases such as Barnes' would be less likely with the planned computerised triage system for handling 999 calls.

The life-and-death situations would be given top priority under the system.

'Fire Services has stated they were not able to meet the service pledge of [responding to calls within] 11 minutes ... the reason being that too many people call 999 for various reasons,' said Dr Lo, chairman of the newly formed People's Health Actions. 'The service might be overstretched.

'The first few minutes after a heart attack are the most critical period and quite a few people die during the first few minutes.'