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Elderly Connemara man had to wait 57 minutes on roadside for an ambulance

“Why doesn’t the HSE pull the finger out and give us the means to contribute fully,” Galway GP Peter Sloane said.

Image: RollingNews.ie

DOCTORS IN GALWAY have criticised the lack of ambulance services in An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe) after an elderly man had to wait for an ambulance on the side of the road for 57 minutes.

RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta, who first reported the story yesterday morning, said that because of a lack of services to the south Connemara area, there were no staff immediately available to respond to the call.

Dr Peter Sloane, who’s one of four GPs serving the south Connemara area, responded to the call and knew immediately that the case was a ‘blue light emergency’.

He said that the 60-year-old man had an acute medical illness and when he arrived at the hospital, the family were told he was lucky to have got there in the time that he did.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” he told TheJournal.ie. “Nothing tragic happened. But the difference is that we came so close to it.”

In a statement, the HSE confirmed that the National Ambulance Service received an emergency call from ”the Lettermore area of Co Galway on 27 May at 00:02″.

The nearest available emergency ambulance was dispatched to the incident and arrived at the scene at 00:55 hours.

Dr Sloane says that stripped back ambulance services are putting patients’ lives at risk.

In one case an ambulance had to travel from Roscommon to respond to a call in Carraroe, and in another case the ambulance had a response time of two hours.

He doesn’t blame ambulance paramedics for this – rather a poor spread of resources and an ineffective way of spending the healthcare budget.

In March, a report into the National Ambulance Service in Dublin said that it “still lacks necessary capacity” and remains “reliant on overtime to maintain services”.

But that’s not the only difficulty faced by GPs in the west of Ireland.

Oxygen canisters

“We have to rent and refill our own oxygen canisters to respond to patient emergencies.

“They’re €150 to rent for a year, and I have to drive from An Cheathrú Rua to Galway City to refill mine for €20.

Instead of having a standard ambulance van with a driver, I have to use my car, pay for extra insurance, and keep an emergency kit and an oxygen canister in the boot in order to respond to calls.

GPs don’t get reimbursement for this. Sloane says that although some ambulance drivers do refill canisters when they’re asked, others have been directed not to do so.

Which is another frustration for Dr Sloane.

Why doesn’t the HSE pull the finger out and give us the means to allow us to contribute fully?

“I’ve only set up a practice in the last three months, so I’m enthusiastic that we can change things – but the other GPs are just fed up.”

He’s written to the Minister for Health Simon Harris to ask him to look at the issues in the west of Ireland after last weekend’s events.

In the email, he asks the Minister:

Would you consider it acceptable for a member of your family to be given an estimated time of arrival of an ambulance of 57 minutes for a life threatening emergency anywhere in this State?

Dr Sloane also stresses that it’s important not to be ‘blindsided’ by the average response times, and to listen to the people on the ground who know the situation.

The Department of Health was contacted for comment.

Read: Deficiencies in ambulance service putting patients in Dublin at risk, says Hiqa

Read: If someone you know goes into cardiac arrest, you’re their best chance of survival

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