Oslo: Ambulance crew refuses to take patient

A 37-year-old man who was badly injured in an Oslo park last week, and then denied ambulance transport to a local hospital, remained in a coma Tuesday. His case has sparked a huge debate on latent racism within Norwegian society.

Ali Haji Mohamed Farah, a Somalian-Norwegian, initially was the victim of random aggravated assault in Oslo's Sofienberg Park last Monday afternoon. He'd been relaxing in the park with family and friends when someone playing football, also of African descent, allegedly assaulted him after a minor conflict.

Ali Farah was severely injured, and his condition may have worsened after ethnic Norwegian ambulance drivers arriving at the scene refused to take him to hospital. Witnesses say the ambulance personnel performed only a cursory examination, verbally abused him and left the scene, telling police to take the assault victim to a medical clinic instead.

Friends ended up getting Ali Farah into a taxi and took him to the clinic, where doctors determined serious head injuries. He has been in intensive care ever since, and doctors have postponed plans to wake him from a coma in the hopes of preventing permanent brain damage.

The ambulance team's refusal to treat and transport Ali Farah has set off a wave of protests, and embarrassed both the ambulance service, Ullevål Hospital and the police. Officials spent most of last week trying to blame each other, but since have been apologizing and trying to explain what happened.

Commentators, politicians and Ali Farah's family, meanwhile, are raising charges of racism, arguing it's unlikely the ambulance drivers would have abandoned a white Norwegian in need of medical help.

'Security risk?'

On Tuesday, newspaper VG reported that the ambulance dispatch service had listed Ali Farah as a security risk, and warned the drivers he'd been a troublesome patient on an earlier occasion. If a patient has behaved in a threatening manner, it's recorded in his or her electronic record and that information comes up on future emergency calls.

The warning, however, was made in error and Arild Østergaard of Ullevål told VG that there was no such information in Ali Farah's medical records. He was apparently mixed up with another patient, "and we apologize that incorrect information was released," Østergaard said.

The ambulance team has been suspended and the driver who left Ali Farah, who was supposed to leave this week for UN peacekeeping duties in the former Yugoslavia, was also suspended from military service.

He and his partner are under investigation by the police and health department officials for leaving a patient in need and making racially abusive statements. A man from Ghana, meanwhile, has been arrested, charged with the initial assault on Ali Farah.

Source: Aftenposten (English)


Ferdy said...

As always, self preservation like self defense is not allowed.

Unknown said...

There's a couple of things that wasn't mentioned in this article.

According to the personnel's report (handwritten, the same day apparently) Farah actually stood up and peed on the shoes of one of them. I read this in VG, where they had printed a copy of the form they had written their report in.

I'm not sure if you're able to read Norwegian, but here's an excerpt of the article on the net:

"Da den alvorlig skadede Ali reiste seg opp[stood up] og tisset[peed] på bena[on the legs] til sjåføren[the driver] og på ambulansebilen[ambulance car] begikk han to lovbrudd, ifølge ambulansesjåføren:"

What he did seems to have provoked them quite a lot. I still think they should have helped him. They made a gross error. But the racism charges are out of place. I'm not sure that an ethnic Norwegian would have gotten their help either.

(The police asked the ambulance personnel if they shouldn't bring him with them anyway, so it seems they did everything correct, but got caught up in the mess.)

Esther said...

Hi strappado,

You are right and that was indeed one of the main discussion points in the Norwegian language press. I did not bring a more comprehensive summary of this story and sufficed with the English Aftenposten version. I was surprised they did not bring it up but didn't really connect this with the 'security risk' issue.

With a head injury, he was apparently not controlling his bodily functions. From the VG VG story I understand the ambulance personnel didn't realize he was so badly injured and thought he was getting rowdy and therefore a 'security risk'.