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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Official: Only 10 percent of 999 calls in Qatar for ‘real’ emergencies


Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The vast majority of calls placed to Qatar’s emergency number 999 do not involve life-threatening emergencies, a senior Ministry of Interior official has said.

This is problematic because 999 is used in Qatar and around the world by first responders to discern who is in need of immediate, urgent care.

But according to Maj. Khalid Saleh Al-Ansari, the MOI’s chief of emergencies, only 10 percent – or 600 – of the 6,000 calls made each day to the 999 service fall into that category, the Gulf Times reports.

In an interview with Police Magazine, Al-Ansari said most calls received on the emergency line are about minor accidents, are made by children or have been dialed by mistake.

In other countries, such as the UK, fines are now being imposed for time-wasters and non-essential calls, the BBC reports.

And non-emergency lines have been set up in some areas there, to take the pressure off the 999 service. Additionally, repeat nuisance callers are prosecuted.

Too poor to pay

But it is not clear if such measures would work here.

According to one long-time emergency room doctor in Qatar, the 999 service is overused here because many expats cannot afford to seek treatment at the country’s private clinics and hospitals.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The doctor, who asked not to be named, told Doha News that recent moves to prioritize state-run primary health care centers for Qataris have prompted some expats to rely on emergency services for minor ailments, as government hospitals provide affordable treatment.

Expats in Qatar can now only access a few primary healthcare centers, which are often far from their accommodation or workplaces, and so busy that it can be difficult to get an appointment.

The doctor, who worked in Hamad General’s emergency room for seven years and now works at another hospital in Qatar, said Al-Ansari’s statement reflected his own experiences:

“Most of the patients who called 999 and who we saw were not emergencies. The hospital is open 24 hours and if you come as an emergency patient, you don’t need to pay. Many of the people I saw were poor and they needed treatment, but they couldn’t afford private care.

They couldn’t get an appointment at the local health clinics, so they came to us for treatment.”


But the situation creates a “huge load” for emergency doctors, he said.

“It is very frustrating. We are dealing with minor cases, so often just didn’t have the capacity to deal with the major ones which came in,” the doctor added.

He said the current system needed an overhaul, to release the burden on emergency services.

“There should be health centers and walk-in clinics for expats, so they can be seen properly by doctors and that would stop many of them having to go to hospital or call 999 to get treated,” he said.

Workers in the Industrial Area have long complained about a lack of health and medical facilities nearby.

There is no 24-hour pharmacy, and no hospital in the district, although plans are underway to build three hospitals dedicated to single, male laborers in Mesaieed, Ras Laffan and the Industrial area.

Expected to open next year, these will specialize in trauma and injury, occupational health and physiotherapy.

Emergency services

Qatar’s emergency services line is manned in shifts, around the clock, by teams speaking languages including Arabic, English, French, Chinese, Tagalog and Urdu.

Once a caller dials 999, they are put through to the most appropriate service for their needs.

This may be one of Hamad Medical Corp.’s highly-trained emergency medical dispatchers, who are the initial point of contact for getting an ambulance to an ill patient.

Patients who arrive for treatment at Hamad General’s emergency department are then assessed and prioritized for treatment according to their condition.



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7 years ago

It’s a true shame that the local health center system has been allowed to atrophy. The buildings are in such disrepair, they’re understaffed, and the doctors are unbelievably rude. Most people in the ER shouldn’t be there at all.

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago

Couple of things:
1. I once went to a private medical clinic to get some doxycycline for malaria prevention in the country I was to soon travel too. Sorry sir only Hamad Emergency can prescribe it??? Like ok I will clog up the ER because I want Doxy?
2. The doctor states that they are overwhelmed with minor cases and couldn’t get to serious cases in the ER? Like, hello Hamad, have you ever hear of triage? Probably not its Qatar.
3. On a public safety note, some lunatic let go a couple of shotgun blasts down my street in Muaither. I call the police, firstly they couldn’t locate me despite giving the street name, and the new address numbers. The actual police kept calling me , not the dispatcher, very very poor command and control and coordination. When they get there they ask if I saw it? I said no and they chastise me for ringing? Do not ring unless you see they say. Ok Sherlock Holmes, what if someone was killed or injured in the street and needed assistance. What if there was a murder and you needed witnesses for a time of death to discount an alibi etc. What if there was a crime scene that needed securing before contamination….Or what if I hear my neighbour belting the living daylights out of his wife, I cant see so don’t ring? The list goes on.
So really? Only 10 percent? In any event every where else in the world you have one number and the call takers triage, the public are not expected to self triage jobs and decide what is important and what is not. Lastly train your police to some sort of acceptable standard, what a couple of absolute morons I dealt with. Get with the modern world.

7 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

The shooters were probably the same cops, they wanted to make sure you hadn’t seen them…..

7 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

You were cutting into their Bejeweled time on their mobile phones.

7 years ago

A few weeks ago, the doctor I was seeing at Hamad Hospital actually told me to go to Emergency and claim that i’m suffering from sever pain in order to get my results for a test she wasn’t willing to (or as she said, is unable to) call me about.

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