Ambulance call outrage: 'Are you black or white?'
Published: 25 Jun 12 17:41 CET
Updated: 25 Jun 12 20:49 CET
Swedish emergency operators quizzed a pregnant English-speaking immigrant about her race and ethnicity when she unexpectedly went into labour at the weekend and was forced to wait more than two hours for an ambulance.
By the time emergency crews arrived, the woman's premature infant died within minutes of being delivered.
"Our baby would be alive today if an ambulance had come right away," 33-year-old Ehimati Adesuwa told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Adesuwa, a native of Nigeria currently living in the Stockholm suburb of Rågsved, called emergency services operator SOS Alarm shortly after noon on Saturday after being struck by excruciating abdominal pain.
As she was seven months pregnant, Adesuwa became more concerned when she discovered discharge consisting of fluid and blood.
While the operator on the other end of the line assured Adesuwa an ambulance would be dispatched immediately, no ambulance arrived.
Nearly an hour later, Adesuwa called Swedish emergency number 112 again, only to be faced with a series of questions from the operator, some of which the 33-year-old felt had little relevance to the medical emergency for which she was seeking help.
"She wondered where I came from and if I was black or white. What does that matter? I thought they tried to save lives," she told Aftonbladet.
Her husband, 29-year-old Olugbabi Olukunle, arrived home from work to find his wife screaming in pain and placed yet another call to SOS Alarm.
But an ambulance didn't show up until around 2.40pm, nearly 2.5 hours after Adesuwa placed her first call for help.
Upon arrival, paramedics helped the 33-year-old deliver the premature baby, but the infant died within minutes.
"It was a boy. He was quiet, but shaking," said husband Olukunle to Aftonbladet.
"We had planned and dreamed about a family. Now we're crying and everything is ruined."
The couple, who have European residence permits issued by Italy, came to Sweden earlier this year after Olukunle received work at a construction site.
They have since reported the incident to police, and it is also being investigated by SOS Alarm, which disputes the couple's account of events.
"It's a tragic event. But our information indicates it wasn't two and a half hours," SOS Alarm spokesperson Anders Klarström told Aftonbladet.
According to Klarström, questions from emergency operators about Adesuwa's skin colour were "irrelevant" and not among the questions operators are supposed to ask those who call seeking help.
"It must have resulted from confusion with the language," he said, despite the fact that all the parties involved in the call speak excellent English.
Speaking later to Aftonbladet, Klarström admitted that the operators do sometimes ask about the colour of a person's skin is it relates to blood circulation but that the operator "absolutely didn't ask whether the patient was black or white".
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