Emergency services in the country are under-resourced, said a Donegal man whose mother died after waiting 50 minutes for an ambulance.
Brendan Porter of Carndonagh said the public must lobby elected representatives on the issue.
“Ring your TD and say, ‘Listen, I want you to fight and get this ambulance service improved,’” he said. “Unfortunately, when they do need it and don’t get it, and someone dies or is seriously injured, it’s too late.”
Mr. Porter’s mother, Maura, age 70, was struck by a car near her Carndonagh home at about 5.45pm, Dec. 30th, 2013. She waited 50 minutes for an ambulance to arrive from Letterkenny, which brought her to Altnagelvin Hospital. Mrs. Porter later died in hospital.
In January of 2014, the HSE called for a review of the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Porter’s case, which was later highlighted in an RTÉ Prime Time report.
Last month, The Irish Times saw the HSE report, which was marked, “strictly private and confidential”. According to the Times, the report said there was one emergency ambulance available in Donegal, about two hours from Carndonagh, when the 999 call was received for Mrs. Porter.
The report noted that five of eight other Donegal ambulances rostered for duty were queuing at Letterkenny General’s emergency department, waiting to transfer patients. The report noted, according to the Times, that if ambulances had been released from the hospital in a timely manner, the delay in responding to the Carndonagh call, “almost certainly would not have occurred”.
Mr. Porter said delays were only part of the problem. There need to be more ambulances and paramedics to staff them, he said.
“The important thing that stopped my mother from having an ambulance is resources,” he said. “If there were the equivalent to Northern Ireland, there would be 18 ambulances, not nine.” He said the need for more resources was particularly great in a large, rural county like Donegal.
In response to last month’s HIQA report on the national ambulance service, Leo Varadkar, minister for health, said response times to 999 calls in rural areas may never meet national targets and stressed the need for more community response.
Mr. Porter said there should be no difference in response times. “The resources are not there, and the people need to be made aware,” he said.