Scrutiny Builds at Radio Station That Prank Called London Hospital

The two radio hosts of the Australian 2Day FM are receiving counselling. They have not been seen in public since the announcement of nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death on Friday.

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WILL OLIVER/AFP/Getty Images

A bunch of flowers is left outside the nurses accommodation block by colleagues near the King Edward VII hospital in central London on December 8, 2012 in memory of nurse Jacintha Saldanha who was found dead the previous day.

The Australian radio station that prank called a London hospital where Kate Middleton was staying last week is reviewing its practices after the apparent suicide of a nurse who put through the call, reports BBC News. 

On Friday morning Jacintha Saldanha was found unconscious near the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was recently treated for acute morning sickness. Saldanha died soon after. The mother of two had transferred to Middleton’s private ward a call from two Australian DJs pretending to be members of the royal family.

Neither presenter has gone on air or appeared in public since Saldanha’s death on Dec. 7. One of the hosts, Michael Christian, is believed to be in a Sydney hotel. Co-host Mel Greig’s whereabouts are unknown, writes the Telegraph. According to BBC News, they are receiving psychological counseling.

Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of Southern Cross Austereo, the company that owns the radio station, said Saturday night that his organization is taking “immediate action” to review its broadcast procedures in the wake of the incident.

His statement came in response to a Saturday letter from the chairman of the hospital, Simon Arthur, who wrote to Moore-Wilton:

I am writing to protest in the strongest possible terms about the hoax call made from your radio station, 2Day FM, to this hospital last Tuesday. King Edward’s VII’s Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call… I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated.

Police in New South Wales, where the radio station is located, said they had been contacted by the London Metropolitan Police but have not yet been asked to take any specific action. Nick Kaldas, Deputy Commissioner police officer in New South Wales, told the Telegraph the London Metropolitan police may wish to speak to the radio hosts but that no interviews had yet been lined up.

Sandy Kaye, a PR spokesperson for the radio station said; “We are very concerned for the well-being of our talent… Mel is very vulnerable. She has been vulnerable in the past.” A close friend of the presenter also said; “everyone who knows Mel fears for her mental state. Yes, there are very real fears that she could self-harm and nobody wants that.” The radio host’s father said from his home in South Australia; “I don’t know where she is. I am very concerned for her. I have spoke to her but I have been told not to say anymore.”

Meanwhile the board of Southern Cross is meeting Sunday to discuss the international anger the hoax has caused. They have suspended all advertising on 2Day FM until further notice. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Jacintha Saldanha’s death a “terrible tragedy,” saying “our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time,” reports the Telegraph.

14 comments
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LondonBound
LondonBound

TIME magazine - she is not known as Kate Middleton anymore, but as the Duchess of Cambridge - come on, the woman has been married for over a year!

KenMayberg
KenMayberg

So what were the contents of the prank call?

BetsySchaper
BetsySchaper

Having lived & worked in London and been schooled at Oxford University, and having visited this country and city I adore for over 40 years, I can say that I understand a few things about the people living in London, England : 1) They adore & respect the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge. 2) They take their work at King Edward VII Hospital very seriously. 3) Pranks are never considered at a place like this hospital, much less involving members of the Royal Family 4) That such a totally insane prank was perpetrated on this young woman, employed at this superb hospital for four years without even so much as a slight problem, speaks volumes about her as a nurse and as a person. Her reputation was impeccable there. 5) The prank was heard around the world in a matter of hours, causing, in her mind, not only embarrassment to the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, who handled the episode magnificently, but also to her employer. Not many people could handle such global embarrassment of this magnitude. I send heartfelt apologies to her family, friends, and colleagues. This is such a tragedy, and no doubt, had it not happened, Jacintha Saldanha would be celebrating Christmas with her family this year. Rest in peace Mrs. Saldanha. 

RodneyVero
RodneyVero like.author.displayName 1 Like

If this woman INDEED killed herself because of a prank phone call that she merely transferred to somebody else, she had problems that went WAY beyond the call itself.  While the situation is very sad, to blame anyone but the killer in a suicide is ludicrous.

Oddchap
Oddchap like.author.displayName 1 Like

I apoligize for the accidental prior short post.

I am of the strong opinion that this unfortunate nurse would still be alive, if the patient had been an average citizen.  This whole episode should be used to demonstrate the out of proportion worship of the outdated and useless English royals and assorted titled individuals, whose only claim to respect is to whom they were born.   Rather than than lash out at the perpetrators of what, at the time, seemd to be a silly but harmless practical joke,  the attention should be centered on the useless upper class in English society, who for centuries have sucked far more of what should be the peoples wealth and respect, than they have ever returned in kind.

Simply think, "Would we have even heard of this episode and would this nurse have taken her own life, if it had been you or I in the hospital?"

FrancesAu
FrancesAu

@Oddchap  I agree with you I am wondering why they are blaming the two radio clowns, I just saw an interview with them, and the management at their station had tried for several hours to get permission to air the phone call, without success, after legal advice the station management gave permission for it to go to air.  There was nothing in the prank call which was offensive.   I want to know why Scotland Yard has sent someone to Australia over this matter.  Surely the hospital had a responsibility to get back to the radio station but didn't bother, or were they too busy witch hunting to find out who had taken that call to return the multiple calls?   The poor woman was probably being grilled by the hospital management long before the show went to air.  Why not blame them? I think heads should roll at the hospital over this not blame the two young people who pulled the gag, never expecting such a backlash.  For instance when exactly did she die?  What did she die from?  They have not said that she overdosed, could stress have caused her to die naturally?

RichSnyder
RichSnyder

There needs to be more scrutiny at the hospital to see how/why someone was able to get even low-level information about a patient (now I'm wondering what would happen in the US if some DJ faked Obama's voice and asked for info), and about why someone would commit suicide just because they passed a call to someone else who gave info (and DIDN'T commit suicide).  I'd compare this to someone who was able to sneak something dangerous past the TSA people at the airport (every once in a while someone does this to 'test' the system). 

VickieArnold
VickieArnold like.author.displayName 1 Like

It is just wrong to blame the radio station for the tragic turn of events.  To think someone would take their own life is sad beyond words, but again, not the radio station's fault.

richpol
richpol like.author.displayName 1 Like

Is it?  The first thing they do is to paint these callow DJ's as victums too. They both have shown some of the worst of humanity and have been condemned world-wide. How can this cruel act that contributed to a suicide be thought as just one of those things?

tkmajor
tkmajor like.author.displayName 1 Like

@VickieArnold What nonsense. These cruel hoaxers were the cause of this tragedy.

RichSnyder
RichSnyder

@tkmajor What nonsense.  This is like the guy in FL who left a note saying he committed suicide because Obama won - news also revealed his tanning salon (part owner) had recently shut down... I haven't followed the story, but there was more behind the suicide than this single incident.

RichSnyder
RichSnyder

@tkmajor You being so up about this is like the dude who compared this HOAX to someone dropping bricks from an overpass.   I don't like things (like Howard Stern, or morning show jokers) that are on the radio, so I just switch stations.   If you want to classify it as a crime that is up to you - we will see what the courts say.  BUT nothing explains why someone would kill themselves.   Main culprit here is the hospital if they didn't have some kind of protocol in place to protect patients' privacy - ESPECIALLY when a royal is there.

To deal with this issue, I'd like to hear the hospital explain how someone could get patient info so easily over the phone, and what steps they'll take to ensure it doesn't happen again.

tkmajor
tkmajor like.author.displayName 1 Like

@RichSnyder @tkmajor Your attempt at rationalizing an excuse for this hoax fails even the least rigorous logical inspection. This hoax was a crime perpetrated for commercial gain. It perplexes me, that some people would rush to excuse the cruel and uncaring hoax mentality behind these lowest common denominator "entertainers."