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Ambulance service in Scotland let old Polish soldier die

War Hero Dies As 999 Men Eat Their Tea
Nov 14 2007

AN 82-YEAR-OLD war hero choked to death in front of his daughter - while a nearby ambulance crew were having their tea.

Paramedics were just 500 yards from stricken Ernie Rutkiewicz. But a crew took 22 MINUTES to reach him because of a Government rule which says crews can't be disturbed during their meal breaks.

The medics sat in an ambulance station canteen tucking into their evening meal while father-of-six Ernie struggled for breath.

No one told them there was an emergency nearby and there was nothing they could do by the time they finally got the call.

Ernie's daughter Linda, 43, was left to watch her dad die in his armchair.

She wept last night as she asked: "Is a dinner worth more than a life? "It's beyond belief that an ambulance wasn't sent out because the crew were too busy eating. "What kind of idiots make up these rules when it's a matter of life or death?"

Ernie travelled from his native Poland to fight for Britain in World War II after seeing his parents executed by the Nazis.

But all his courage and sacrifice counted for nothing when tragedy struck at Linda's home in Carntyne, Glasgow last Thursday.

Ernie had just sat down to his favourite meal of Polish sausages and sauerkraut when he started choking.

Linda said: "He was holding his throat and his face turned blue. He grabbed my arm while I banged on his back to try to clear the blockage.

"I gave him the kiss of life but nothing seemed to work. I felt so helpless.

"I called 999 and I was in a terrible state. I told them my dad was choking to death and told them to get an ambulance here right away.

"I waited and waited then ran into the street and started screaming for help. I called them again on my mobile but still no one came. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life."

She said: "When the ambulance eventually arrived the crew started working on dad but he was already dead and they knew it.

Linda said: "My wee dad was my whole life. He was a real character, always laughing and singing.

"He had health problems but he fully expected to live until he got a telegram from the Queen.

"Dad served this country in the war and the least he could have expected was to die with dignity.

"But when he asked for help he was treated like dirt. He suffered before he died.

Insiders said the ambulance crew were "gutted" over the delay in telling them about Ernie's emergency.

A source told the Record: "If they had known someone was choking to death round the corner they would have dropped everything and gone.

"But these crazy rules mean they cannot be disturbed during their half-hour meal break, so the control room held the emergency until they finished their dinner.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: "Under the rules, crews cannot be disturbed during a meal break.

Ernie would have been 83 on Remembrance Sunday. He left eight grandchildren, including St Johnstone footballer Kevin Rutkiewicz, and five great-grandchildren.

Linda, the youngest of Ernie's children, became his full-time carer 10 years ago after he was mugged in the street and badly injured.

She said: "Dad was a hero and we were all very proud of him.

Re: Ambulance service in Scotland let old Polish soldier die

Yes, there are a lot of stupid rules about. Very sad.

Re: Ambulance service in Scotland let old Polish soldier die

Are ambulance crews allowed to do the heimlich manoevre in these days of health and safety awareness? When I did lifesaving first aid we were told that heimlich could rupture someone's liver and you should bear in mind when saving their life that they may sue you later...!

Re: Ambulance service in Scotland let old Polish soldier die

Is that the one where you stand behind the patient and jerk your joined hands into the solar plexus?

Re: Ambulance service in Scotland let old Polish soldier die

that's the one!