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A woman in China died after a dispatcher did not send an ambulance after she called for emergency help. Photo: SCMP composite

‘I think you are fine’: authorities sack dispatcher after young Chinese woman dies of a brain haemorrhage because no ambulance was sent

  • The emergency department did not dispatch an ambulance until the roommate found the woman unconscious two hours after she called
  • Her father released the emergency call tapes on Weibo, prompting fury online and an official investigation

Authorities in central China fired an emergency response dispatcher and disciplined four other employees in Zhengzhou, Henan province, after a father said a slow ambulance response was responsible for the death of his daughter caused by a brain haemorrhage.

The government said in a statement that the dispatcher, Zhang Zhenying, “was unfamiliar with her work and misjudged the patient’s condition.” It added that her language was “substandard” and she showed “a lack of sensitivity about the patient’s request and capability in handling it.”

The punishments came after a controversy when emergency dispatchers in the city did not send any emergency vehicles for Peng Xinjun, a 20-year-old student at Henan University, despite an 8-minute emergency call on May 17, according to the father on social media last week.
In the call, the young woman said she was at university but could not provide a detailed address, so the emergency phone operator did not dispatch an ambulance. The father, surnamed Peng, said this meant his daughter “missed the best time for treatment”.
An ambulance was only dispatched two hours later when the woman’s roommate found her unconscious in their dormitory and called for an ambulance.
Peng Xinjun’s father is blaming negligence from an ambulance dispatcher for his daughter’s death. Photo:

The sick woman was unable to breathe independently when she was admitted to the hospital, and she died on May 30 from cerebral haemorrhaging.

“[The emergency department] called back several times after their first conversation, but my daughter could not pick up as she had already passed out,” said the father on Weibo on Saturday.

According to the audio released by the father on Weibo, the daughter was alone in her dormitory when she suddenly fell ill and called the emergency response department.

She gave her location correctly as “Henan University’s Zhengzhou campus” and was asked to provide a street address.

At this point, Peng sounded as if she was no longer thinking clearly and she made a mistake. She said she was at the school’s “Minglun campus”, which is in the nearby city of Kaifeng.

When the operator asked again for a street address, Peng could no longer respond and started to groan. The operator then became agitated and told Peng:

“You will just have to stay there if you do not cooperate … you are in your twenties and in college,” she said.

The call ended when Peng did not respond and the operator said, “I think you are fine.”

You will just have to stay there if you do not cooperate.
An ambulance dispatcher Peng called during her brain haemorrhage

Peng’s father asked whether the operator was qualified and had received proper training.

“Why wasn’t an ambulance dispatched until two hours after the call? What are the protocols for emergency response after the emergency centre receives a call?” he asked.

“If an emergency call cannot save a life, what can we trust?” he wrote.