000 FAILURE ON MOBILES
By UTE SCHULENBERG
ROSS Mills will never know whether an ambulance would have saved his wife's life.
As it was, the 000 emergency call was never put through to the NSW Ambulance Service because the Telstra operator could not locate Macksville on the database.
Denni Mills was taken to Macksville Hospital by the friend who had made the call.
She was unconscious shortly after arrival and declared brain dead just before midnight on April 7, following a massive brain haemorrhage.
Mr Mills knows he has months of grieving ahead following the loss of his wife of 43 years but adding to the grief is Telstra's response.
Although Telstra has not yet contacted Mr Mills, he understands its response was: "The operator could not understand the caller" and "The caller hung up too quickly."
Mr Mills says this is rubbish.
"The Ambulance Service has heard a tape of the call," he said.
"They said the caller was calm and even spelt 'Macksville' out.
"They (the Ambulance Service) couldn't understand why the call was not put through."
When the Coffs Coast Advocate contacted Telstra Countrywide earlier this week, the Mid North Coast manager, Michael Sharpe, said Telstra had apologised to the family and the operator was now undergoing extensive retraining and counselling.
"It was an unfortunate incident and we have offered our apologies," Mr Sharpe said.
"We take this extremely seriously and we've investigated it fully. The operator had problems understanding the caller."
He said there was nothing systemically wrong with the 000 process and the incident had no implications for services in the bush.
"This was a one-off incident."
Again Mr Mills disagrees.
"When I had problems with Telstra last year an employee rang me, eventually, and apologised for the mix-up and said the sales person involved was being counselled and retrained.
"This is their standard excuse. And this is not a one-off incident.
"I have heard of other deaths as a result of Triple 0 calls from mobiles not being properly dealt with by Telstra."
He questioned why Telstra claimed not to be able to trace a mobile phone call when they could place it for billing purposes.
He also asked why the technology to do this, currently in use in the USA, had not been installed in Australia.
"It disgusts me that Telstra can pay obscene amounts to senior management and at the same time penny pinch on training and technology that could mean the difference between the life and death of customers," Mr Mills said.
"This shouldn't have happened and it shouldn't be continuing to happen.
"My hope is that by my family exposing ourselves, then enough people will realise and put enough pressure on politicians and Telstra to do something."