More than half the calls that come to Kanivu 108, the government ambulance service in Kerala, are wrongly placed. Missed calls, silent calls, prank calls and wrong numbers all come to the three-digit number meant for attending to medical emergencies. Out of the 9,19,424 calls that came to ‘108’ in the past year, 5,40,571 came for the wrong reasons. The Kanivu team has released a note saying that every call that comes to 108 is valuable and it should not be misused in this manner.
"Every emergency call may save a life. However some people misuse the service for their timepass. Among the calls that came to the 108 control room in a year, 2,14,956 were for those who needed emergency services of the ambulance. But another 1,69,792 missed calls were made for no reason. Since ‘108’ is used for emergency medical help, these calls are usually returned to find out if they need ambulance service," says the release.
Among other wrongly placed calls, 93,858 were from those asking for gas booking and recharge of mobile or digital television. There is also a practice of children using their parents’ phones to make these calls — 28,622 such calls were recorded in a year. In such cases, the calls are returned to the parents to explain the seriousness of the matter. Yet again, there are prank calls made in the name of ministers and celebrities.
More problematically, there were 431 calls made to abuse the employees including women at the control room.
"On an average, 2,000 of the 3,000 calls that come to ‘108’ on a day are wrongly placed. This may sometimes delay the services for those who really need it," says the release.
GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute manages the 108 ambulance services. Its state operations head Saravanan Arunachalam said that if such misplaced calls continue to come from the same numbers, those numbers will be temporarily blocked and during this time they may not be able to call 108 even for emergencies.
Read from archive: Facing prejudice, denied water: Kerala ambulance staff on COVID-19 duty