A young woman near death called an emergency dispatch number in France last December and was mocked by the operator, France24 reports. Naomi Musenga, 22, called the ambulance service and in a barely audible voice complained of severe stomach pain and said she thought she was going to die—to which the operator responded she was "certainly" going to die "one day, like everyone else. Call the SOS doctors." The operator then gave her the number of France's medical emergency service, which sends medical providers directly to a house. Hours later Musenga got help and went to the hospital, but suffered two heart attacks in the hospital and died. With the operator on temporary leave, the incident has placed a spotlight on staff-shortages among France’s overworked emergency service workers.
Jean-Claude Matry, president of the emergency services union, defended his staff. "The operators answer calls 12 consecutive hours a day," he told CNN. "They undergo a lot of stress and it becomes hard to distinguish serious causes from boo-boos." The incident is ramping up pressure on the French government to increase resources for the health system. Patrick Pelloux, head of the French association of emergency doctors, says that in the last three decades visits to the ER have risen from eight million to 21 million while calls to emergency services have tripled, which has essentially turned them into call centers. Still, Musenga’s family is angry. "Whether it was bad will or dysfunctions, it is a serious error," Musenga’s father, Policarpe, tells reporters.