The regular reader of my blog might know my dire views of the Finnish health system but my recent experience with the emergency center and the police tops my experiences with the health system by far. I also might remind the reader that I have worked over 10 years in EMS, among other things as ambulance chief as well as chief of an emergency center, so I do know fairly well what I am writing about here.
A few weeks ago, I visited a good friend near Kuopio in Eastern Finland over the weekend. On that Sunday, when she was driving me to the railway station in Kuopio via the motorway, her car broke down and we came to a stop on what during the time I worked in EMS in Germany, we used to call the "triangle of death". The small stripe between the motorway and the acceleration lane of the motorway's entry ramp.
In every civilized country, a broken down car in the "triangle of death" will prompt an immediate response by the highway patrol with lights and siren because aside from the left lane, the space between the acceleration lane and the actual motorway is about the most dangerous place one can be on a motorway. Also, at least in my homecountry Germany, already driving students are intensely advised to dial the emergency number, wait for the police and do not under any circumstances step out of the car.
So, there we were standing, fairly substantial traffic passing left of us with 120+ kph and not too rarely vehicles entering the motorway and - of course - I called the emergency center.
The first dispatcher spoke excellent English but seemingly did not understand where we were. I explained to him that we were on the space between the acceleration lane of an entry ramp and the actual motorway, that traffic is passing on both sides of us at high speed and that I consider the situation to be extremely dangerous. The dispatcher then heard my friend talking Finnish in the background - she was trying to organize a tow - and demanded to talk to her. Getting impatient, I repeated that we are in a dangerous situation and that I request the police to the place ASAP. He pointed out that I was calling the emergency number (oh, really?) and again demanded to talk to my friend. After just a few seconds, my friend gave the phone back to me and told me the dispatcher said that we are in no dangerous situation and he won't send anybody.
Naturally, I was fairly irritated and again called to the emergency center, this time talking to a female dispatcher. I immediately advised her that if she won't send help, I would take legal actions against the center and she asked the whole situation again and also she demanded to speak to my friend. In the meanwile we were standing already well 10 minutes in that dangerous situation. The dispatcher told my friend that she will send the police. When no police was at the scene about another 10 minutes later, I called again to request a status update. The dispatcher then informed me that all police cars were busy in missions.
After some time, family of my friend arrived. Unable to move the car due to traffic they first drove me to the railway station.
Over an hour after my first call, somebody from the police called me back but the call got interrupted. My impression was that the police officer hung up because there was no callback. So I called again to the emergency center to give them the number of my friend.
Later, my friend told me that they managed to move the car themselves - under life danger.
In my homecountry Germany and most countries in which I am familiar with the EMS system, this case would have prompted a criminal investigation on a fairly high level.
First of all, it is absolutely impossible that the dispatcher wastes time asking redundant questions. I did inform the dispatcher about my background and told that we are in a dangerous situation. That MUST be enough. The dispatcher does not need to know if we are 10cm left of the marking or 10cm right of the marking. The only thing that matters is the information "dangerous place in traffic".
Least of all, the dispatcher can make the decision that the caller is not in a dangerous situation. The dispatcher is not at the scene. He cannot see the location, the position, nor the traffic conditions. Making such a decision and refusing to send help is criminally negligent at best.
Second of all, having to wait over an hour and ultimately being forced to move the vehicle oneself without protection and under risk to ones life is beyond unacceptable.
Unfortunately, thanks to absurd and irresponsible politics, the Finnish police has been reduced to a gun-carrying cleanup crew. Whole Finland has less police officers than any single big German city. In the rural areas, the police barely has the ressources to investigate major crimes, let alone "serve and protect". The rising number of incidents where people complain about inappropriate behavior of police officers is without doubt directly related to the personnel situation because the street cops have to work under unbearable conditions.
As much related are increasing numbers of severe misdemeanors in traffic. Just recently a story from Northern Finland hit the press, reporting a driver intentionally accelerating before a zebra stripe with children on it and every day new reports of increasingly aggressive behavior on Finland's roads are heard - no wonder, considering the traffic police was dissolved not long ago.
Politicians like to point out the low crime rate and argue that with such a low crime rate, not more police is needed. But is the crime rate really that low? How can we know how many crimes are really commited with almost no police on the streets? How many crimes remain undiscovered?
Fact is that if you need the police in Finland, you have to wait. Wait long. And the more rural you live, the longer you have to wait.
All in all, the unfortunate conclusion is that Finland is not a safe country to live in any more. If you need help in Finland, you are screwed.