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More than 90 per cent of emergency calls in Bhutan are hoax

Publication Date : 19-09-2012


Almost a year and half after it started, Bhutan's Health Help Centre (HHC) toll free number, 112, has been receiving more abused, disconnected, missed and silent calls instead of medical emergency and enquiry calls.

Of the 595,085 calls the centre has received since May last year, 94 per cent are prank calls, records with the centre show. Only 2.6 per cent of the calls they received were genuine emergency calls that include hospital-to-hospital transfer calls as well as calls for medical advice and inquiry.

Chief executive officer of HHC, Karma Sangay, said most of the abusive calls are very offensive that a layperson cannot listen to it.

"We cannot take any actions since there is no legal standing such as an act or a law to back us up," he said. "The callers just waste our time and overload the system."

In a day, the centre receives around 764 disconnected calls, 591 missed calls, 50 abused calls, 78 silent calls and 10 enquiry calls. From a total of 20 staff with the HHC, five staff work on a shift where four consists of call agents, a dispatch closure agent and a health management officer.

One such example of such abusive calls is of man calling and asking the operator their name, singing on the phone, confessing their love, misinforming them and using foul languages. When warned that their numbers could be traced, the caller tells them to do what they want because they have four other numbers.

"We can definitely trace these callers through the caller identification system but we cannot do anything about it," he said. "For such abusive calls to come down without any intervention, a grace period is needed so that people know about it and make rightful use of it."

Health ministry's policy and planning head and spokesperson Kado Zangpo said there is no health law at present to take any actions on such abusive callers at present.

"We are however in a planning stage to frame a health law but there are some policy directives where depending on the severity of the offence we can take actions," he said. "But we are yet to review them."

If the ministry goes ahead and lodges a complaint against the callers with Tashi Cell and B Mobile, they can block the callers' number.

Tashi Cell's general manager for network operations department Ganga Ram Sharma said they could block a person's number if the health officials complain but doubts if that would help solve the problem. "But to block a person's number, we need a letter or an order from the court," he said. "We cannot do anything without a solid legal standing."

In charge of the customer care with Bhutan Telecom, Nima Tshering, said health officials need to first file in a compliant. "They need to provide details of these offensive calls along with permission from the police and the court for us to take such actions," he said.

Otherwise, services provided by the centre are doing quite well with ambulance services streamlined and responses by the centre have become much faster, said HHC officials. "We provide services ranging from emergency responses, medical advices and complaint logging system," he said.


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