A Hong Kong woman failed to answer 17 phone calls from hospital staff regarding the condition of her seriously injured husband before he was to undergo emergency surgery as she thought the incoming calls were from phone scammers.

On Saturday night, a person claiming to work at the undisclosed hospital’s emergency department, posted a Facebook message stating that his urgent calls were repeatedly rejected by the injured man’s wife, who later explained that she was wary of answering calls starting with the number “3,” a common prefix reported in phone fraud cases.

The woman’s husband, referred to only as Uncle Wah, had been taken to hospital by ambulance after the taxi he was driving collided head-on with a truck earlier on Saturday.

The hospital staffer said on Facebook that the woman answered the phone at the 18th attempt – by which time her husband was already in the operating theater – and was surprised to learn it was not an unsolicited call. He said she could have spoken to her husband, who was seriously injured but remained conscious, if she had answered earlier calls.

The man’s condition is not known.

The Facebook post expressed dismay at the woman’s reluctance to answer the calls, but said it was understandable in view of a recent spate of phone scams in the city that had made people distrust incoming calls starting with number “3.”

Dr Andrews Chung Ho-yin, an emergency department surgeon from Queen Mary Hospital, told Apple Daily that the public should accept repeated incoming calls from the same number as they could be urgent.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Caritas Medical Center all use telephone numbers starting with the number “3,” according to the Hospital Authority’s website.