'Help me': 93-year-old woman dies after call operator hangs up on her without providing assistance

'Help me': 93-year-old woman dies after call operator hangs up on her without providing assistance
Image used for representation (Getty Images/ Jose Luis Pelaez Inc)

SOUTHYORKSHIRE, ENGLAND: A grieving son has received $1108 (£1,000) as compensation and an apology from Barnsley Council after it failed to help save his mother’s life. Rose Belk died in pain after care staff failed to understand her and did not call an ambulance to her house.

On May 19, 2018, the 93-year-old had reportedly fallen and to get help, she pressed an emergency alert button on her lanyard, which helped her to get in touch with a call center managed by her local council. The old woman was on call with an employee of the center for nearly two minutes but the operator did not provide her with any assistance before hanging up on her.

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An audio transcript of the call, which was played in the court, revealed that the pensioner had apparently said “Help me” but the operator replied to her: “I’ll ring your son because I can’t hear you,” before saying, “OK, then. I’ll turn it off.” It has also been said that despite the call handler’s claim that she would call Belk’s son, he did not get any message from them.

Later that fateful day, the woman’s 64-year-old son, Andy, found her lying on the floor of her home near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, when he went to meet her. He immediately took her to hospital but she could not be saved. She died because of the “effects of the fall and a heart attack,” The Daily Mail reported.

Now, following the settlement at Barnsley County Court, Deputy District Judge Christopher Birkby said, “It seems, from what I have heard, that Mrs Belk did suffer. Barnsley Council admitted the service was not what it could have been. She suffered an extremely painful heart attack, and to suffer on one’s own for an hour and 17 minutes – the council could and should have dealt with this immediately.”

Andy noted: “It was never about the money, it was about trying to get justice for my mother and get an apology from the council. It was a shoddy service. The call operator should have called myself and an ambulance the second she realised my mother was unable to speak up. My mother would have been expecting help, having pressed her red button. Lying on the floor in agony was a horrible thing for her to have to endure in the last few hours of her life.”

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The man also said that his mother had been using the home call service since 2010 for which she used to pay $14 (£13) on a monthly basis. The call center had apparently claimed to give a “24-hour, 365-day-per-year monitoring and emergency response service”. Andy added, “It gave her peace of mind. She would say, ‘Don’t worry if anything happens to me, if I can’t get hold of you I can press the red button.’”

Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesperson for health and adult social care at Barnsley Council, shared, “We accept full responsibility for the settlement ruling and we regret that following Mrs Belk’s fall, the service failed to respond to the alert. We have learned lessons from this, reviewed our processes and taken action, which includes refreshed training and a change in processes so operators do a final check with users before alerts are closed.”

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