Ambulance services hit by 4,000 hoax calls
The level of hoax calls to the emergency services is reaching epidemic levels.
Figures reveal that the number of hoax calls to the ambulance service in each HSE region last year exceeded 4,000.
The information was supplied to Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony, who told the Herald: "I was shocked when I saw the figures. It's gone to epidemic proportions really. It really is huge issue."
The figures have jumped from 655 in 2007.
"The people who make hoax calls may not realise the seriousness of what they are doing, and there must be education around this to make them realise the implications," said Mr O'Mahony.
"But also, there must be stiff penalties imposed to ensure that this type of behaviour is eliminated. The danger is that lives will be lost as a result of hoax calls," he said.
Mr O'Mahony said that the growth in hoaxes over recent years was worrying.
The HSE figures showed that in 2007 the number of hoax calls to the ambulance service was 655; this rose to 733 in 2008; 626 in 2009; 1109 in 2010; 4,753 in 2011 and 4,329 in 2012.
Mr O'Mahony had sought information on the costs incurred as a result of these calls. However, the HSE said that data would take significant resources to compile.
Mr O'Mahony recently highlighted the high level of hoax phone calls to the Coast Guard – last year there were 328.
"This is simply unacceptable," he said. The TD said that while the figure was down on the 2011 one, when there were 369 hoax calls recorded, it's a dramatic increase on the figures for 2006 when 27 hoax calls were logged.
While some hoax callers hang up after being asked for further details, that is not always the case, Mr O'Mahony said.
"Those hoax calls have led to the search and rescue units being dispatched and that is simply an appalling abuse of resources, not to mention the risks that the Coast Guard people take when answering calls," he said.
He said that the time being wasted answering those calls could well be at the detriment of someone who actually needs the service.