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Family waited for over an hour for ambulance before patient died - claim

'Critical situation' regarding ambulance crews in Letterkenny highlighted

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Ambulance story

The Emergency Department at Letterkenny University Hospital

A call has been made for an urgent meeting between ambulance management and senior management at Letterkenny University Hospital to discuss “the critical situation” that exists in relation to the availability of ambulance crews.

Donegal councillors, Ciaran Brogan and Gerry Crawford claim the lack of manpower among ambulance crews is throwing the service into disarray.

Both Fianna Fail councillors are members of the Regional Health Forum and they have issued a joint statement highlighting their concerns.

“There was one instance recently where an ambulance was called to a location just five minutes away from Letterkenny Hospital,” their statement read.

“It was a situation where no ambulance was available from Letterkenny general hospital and the nearest available one was in Dungloe and by the time it had arrived in Letterkenny a Sligo ambulance that had become available in Letterkenny was dispatched to do the call. The family waited for an hour for an ambulance to arrive and unfortunately the patient was deceased. They want to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other family or patient.”

Cllrs. Brogan and Crawford said there are  two ambulances on every night from Letterkenny Hospital,seven nights a week. These are covering a wide area including Letterkenny, Fanad and Monday to Thursday the Finn Valley.

“One of the problems is that if any of these ambulances gets a call out they arrive at A and E and can be delayed there for hours depending on how busy it is,” the statement added.

“We have evidence that in some cases, an ambulance was held up in this way for five hours and there was even one kept waiting for seven hours.

“That is no reflection on the staff at the A and E or the ambulance crews who both are doing excellent work under stressful circumstances, but it means that at least one of the ambulances on call can be delayed for a long time when it might be needed elsewhere. It can lead to huge delays and there doesn’t appear to be a proper back-up plan in place.”

Cllrs. Brogan and Crawford want additional ambulance crews in place to meet these needs and the hospital needs to be adequately resourced.

“The current model being used by ambulance service is simply not working and a new strategy has to be devised,” the said.

“There is something seriously wrong with a system when staff can be on duty for close to twenty-four hours. The situation as it stands is just not workable and we have ambulances from Boyle, County Roscommon, going to answer call outs in Ballyshannon, an ambulance travelling from Monaghan to Buncrana, another one going from Manorhamilton to Bridgend, and one going from Killybegs to Killygordon.

“There is, and has been, since late last year, a work to rule at the ambulance base in Letterkenny. These crews are at the end of their tether and this issue needs to be resolved urgently. We would urge that this happens.

“With regard to the ambulance service, we believe in the best interests of patients and ambulance crews and the general public. No ambulance crew should be requested to work excessive hours, in some instances up to 24 hours and over. These concerns should concern all of us.

“There has been an upsurge in stress related leave within the H.S.E. in recent years and when those that have been on such leave return to work they are often returning to the same conditions that made them ill in the first place.

“Another area of concern is the massive amount of money being spent on private ambulances. The cost of these ambulances is increasing year on year where it is obvious that greater investment is required in the Ambulance service itself.

“The National Ambulance Service introduced Intermediate Care Vehicles which were primarily targeted at non-emergency transfers. How this service is being utilised perhaps could be re-visited.

“While we accept that the demands on the Ambulance service and the health service in general are huge we feel that the concerns raised above need to be addressed and we have requested a meeting with Ambulance Management to discuss same.”