A blind pensioner spoke of her outrage today after an ambulance service operator told her to get to hospital on her own – and that her guide dog would read the signs.
Alfreda Weir, 64, has had three strokes, kidney failure, heart failure and depends on her 10-year-old guide dog Yoko for getting around.
She has to make regular visits to the hospital for treatment and until recently she was regularly picked up by the Scottish Ambulance Service and taken to her appointments.
But after calling the service last week, Alfreda was informed by an operator that she no longer met criteria and would have to make her own way to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.
Ms Weir, who lives alone in Dunfermline and has no family, was then left speechless when the operator told her that her Labrador could read the hospital signs for her when she got there.
She said today: “When the lady on the phone made it clear the ambulance wouldn’t be taking me for my appointment, I asked her what I would do if I made my own way to the hospital.
“It’s a big place and they use signs to direct patients, but obviously I can’t read them.
“She said to me ‘there are signs’. So I reminded her that I am visually impaired, to which she replied ‘but you’ve got a guide dog’.
“So I had to tell her that my dog can’t read. She’s a lovely, clever little thing but she’s not that clever.
“I’m not sure if the operator was being rude or just stupid.”
As well as being blind, Ms Weir uses 26 different medications for conditions such as bronchitis, diabetes and asthma.
She has used the patient transport system for years to get to appointments but a new booking system was introduced in October and was told she no longer met criteria for a lift.
Margaret Watt, from the Scottish Patients Association said Alfreda’s treatment was “Absolutely inhuman”.
She stormed: “I doubt any of the people in the ambulance service would think that was clever if it was one of their relatives.
“What a ridiculous thing to say. That operator should be retrained on respect, compassion and dignity for patients, because she obviously hasn’t got any.
“With regards to Ms Weir not being taken to hospital, that is also not acceptable. Not only is it inconvenient for the patient it costs a lot of money.
“They should be making sure this lady gets to and from hospital safely and has no difficulties in getting around hospitals.”
The matter has now been resolved and Alfreda will be picked up by the ambulance again, but she said she is nervous about calling the operator to book up.
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said that they would not comment on specifics of the case because of patient confidentiality, but issued this statement: “Ambulance transport is provided for patients who have a mobility or medical need.
“The decision to provide transport was based upon the initial information provided by the patient. Once further information and the patient’s circumstances were clarified, transport was confirmed and will continue to be provided in future.”