Health Emergency? Dial 911, Not U.N. Medical Services

With a full medical team of eight doctors and 11 registered nurses — and a budget of $38 million — the occupational health clinic at the United Nations should have all the resources it needs to meet any kind of emergency.

Yet the U.N. Medical Services Division (MSD) offers this important piece of advice for any U.N. employee in New York City who suffers a life-threatening condition at work:

Don't call us. Call 9-1-1.

On Aug. 24, the United Nations Office issued a statement to its entire New York staff about "steps to follow in a medical emergency":

"Step 1. Call ... 911 from UN office phone.

"Step 2. If it is a serious injury, render first aid assistance if you are trained to do so.

"Step 3. Call the UN Fire and Safety Unit.

"Step 4. When trained staff arrives, describe the first aid already administered and once again advise if you have called 911."

There's no Step 5. Nowhere does the United Nations advise its staff to call its own Medical Services Division in an emergency.

That could be because the MSD's director, Dr. Brian Davey, is not licensed to practice medicine in New York state. And while the group's head nurse, Neomy Mantin, is licensed as a registered nurse, many of the other nurses hired to work in the unit do not maintain credentials to treat patients in New York.

In a telephone interview with, U.N. spokesman Fahran Haq explained that the MSD has a legal right to hire unlicensed doctors and nurses to work on U.N. property, because "U.N. headquarters is not part of New York."

The Medical Services Division provides "basic health services," according to its Web page, but the doctors and nurses who work there are not permitted to assume primary responsibility for U.N. employees during a medical emergency crisis, even though the department's two-year budget for 2007-2008 accounted for more than $38 million in operating expenses. The U.N. receives most of its funding from national government bodies across the globe.

The amount is staggering for a department that cannot provide emergency care and that has been rocked by scandals in recent months.

On April 29, reported that a few unlicensed doctors and nurses, working at the MSD clinic in New York, were allegedly self-medicating themselves with controlled substances for recreational purposes. Some confidential sources at the U.N. had come forward to FOX News to accuse a high-level MSD doctor, Serguei Oleinikov, of showing symptoms that he is suffering from an addiction to prescription narcotics.

Follow-up stories from other news Web sites revealed allegations that some of the MSD staff exploited their diplomatic privileges to transport controlled substances to countries in Africa.

It was also revealed that an unlicensed MSD nurse, Ruth Agwai, the wife of Martin Agwai, the former head of U.N. Darfur peacekeepers, had been living in a multimillion-dollar town home in Manhattan. The combined salaries of the Agwais are not adequate for Mrs. Agwai to purchase the luxury condo, which has led to speculation that the couple may have received an income through other sources.

Haq, the U.N. spokesman, explained the "steps to follow" advisory by saying: "We have a large complex in New York ... In the past (some) people called U.N. Security first ... we wanted to eliminate any confusion.

"U.N. security made arrangements with New York," Haq added, insisting that the New York City Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was informed of the directive. But the Fire Department of New York, which represents the department's EMS, told in an e-mail: "we have not been informed of this procedural change."

In the announcement, the U.N. praised the city EMS: "United Nations' Headquarters is fortunate to be located in a host city with one of the most capable Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the world...

"EMS support is regularly and effectively called upon to respond to medical emergencies occurring within the United Nations' Headquarters’ Complex."