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An ambulance drives out of Manchester Airport in Manchester, northern England, April 28, 2009.  REUTERS/Phil Noble An ambulance drives out of Manchester Airport in Manchester, northern England, April 28, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble  

UK Grandmother Having Heart Attack Denied Help From Medical Staff

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

A grandmother of three who was suffering a heart attack in front of a medical center in England was forced to call for an ambulance herself after receptionists at the facility refused to help.

That’s the claim made by 58 year-old Hannah Barnes and her family, according to the Shields Gazette, a British newspaper.

Barnes was out shopping when she recognized symptoms similar to those she had experienced in January, when she suffered her first heart attack.

Feeling ill, Barnes headed to Palmer Community Hospital, located in a town called Jarrow, where she asked receptionists there to call emergency services.

Barnes’ family says she was told that she would have to make the call herself, forcing Barnes to search for her cellphone to place the call while suffering a heart attack.

“The whole family is devastated,” said the ailing woman’s sister, Tina Barnes, who pointed out that her sister was lucky, since she often does not carry her cellphone with her.

The Palmer Community Hospital did not provide medical care for Barnes because the facility provides secondary-care hospital services, such as women’s services and cancer services, and is not equipped to handle emergency situations.

Nevertheless, Barnes’ family expressed frustration that staff failed to help in one simple way.

“I could have lost my sister. Would making a free phone call really have harmed them?” said Barnes, according to the Shields Gazette.

“She says she will never forget the face of the woman who said she couldn’t call her an ambulance,” said Tina Barnes. “I want those responsible to be named and shamed.”

Receptionists at medical centers in the United Kingdom have long had a bad image. One study from the 1980s labeled them “the dragons behind the desk.” They were characterized as abusing the power they have as the gatekeeper between patients and the GP, or general practitioner.

The perception that receptionists are surly is so strong that researchers tackled the issue in a 2013 paper titled “Slaying the dragon myth: an ethnographic study of receptionists in UK general practice,” which found that receptionists were often under-trained and overworked.

A spokesman for Northern Doctors Urgent Care Ltd told the Shields Gazette that organizational procedures dictate that receptionists are supposed to undertake a quick visual assessment of a patient’s condition. When patients request ambulance assistance, receptionists are supposed to seek immediate advice from a GP.

A similar case of British hospital negligence was recently reported. A 62 year-old British man fell from a tree and was cut to the bone by a chainsaw. He was denied medical care at a nearby GP because he was not registered there. His regular GP turned him away because they were too busy, even though he was bleeding heavily on the floor. The man eventually made his way to an emergency hospital where he was given 10 stitches. (RELATED: British Man With Chainsaw Wound Was Refused Medical Attention TWICE)

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