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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 18 June, 2018
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13-year-old girl waited 50 minutes for ambulance after neurological attack

A local TD has said that the air ambulance should have responded to the 999 call.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

A TEENAGE GIRL living in west Roscommon was left waiting for an ambulance for almost an hour after suffering from a serious neurological attack.

In response to this case, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that he was eager to see if the ambulance helicopter could be used more often to respond to emergency calls in rural parts of the country.

Ambulance delays have been highlighted in some of Ireland most rural areas, as one base might cover a large area. In some rural ambulance bases if one ambulance is out on call when another emergency happens, the person who made the second emergency call would have a longer wait time than normal.

‘Struggling to breathe’

The 13-year-old girl’s father had called 999 and was told an ambulance wouldn’t arrive for another 50 minutes, local Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy told the Dáil last week.

“Only for the help of a neighbour, a former nurse, her family is convinced that she would have died.”

He said that the family were told that the delay was because the nearest ambulance was coming from Sligo.

“At this stage, the man’s daughter was seriously ill. She was struggling to breathe and he asked for an emergency response.

Without a doubt, an air ambulance should have been called in at that point, but none arrived. What a traumatic and stressful situation for any family.

He said that when the staff arrived, they were ”excellent”, stabilising the girl and her breathing in a short space of time.

Murphy said that after the accident and emergency unit in Roscommon closed, locals were promised an increased ambulance service for the county.

“That has not happened,” he said.

The people of west Roscommon have been left without a service. While I acknowledge that, from time to time, the air ambulance does a good job and gets to places quickly, this was a serious situation and one about which I am sure the Minister would be concerned.

Air ambulance

In response to Murphy’s questions in the Dáil, Health Minister Simon Harris said that an “important and sensitive” issue had been raised.

He said he was interested to hear the possibilities of extending the services of the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) that operates from Custume Barracks, Athlone.

“I am eager to see whether we can do more in the aeromedical space, since that would enable the EAS in Athlone to do even more in [the Roscommon area].

That service was established to provide a more timely response to persons in rural areas and is available seven days per week in daylight hours.
The service is specifically targeted at the west of Ireland, with the highest demand for services coming from counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

He said that following a review of the ambulance service last year, €2.8 million in funding has been allocated to develop the service. It’s hoped that a new clinical hub will “divert some lower acuity patients to alternative care” and “free up some emergency capacity”.

He said that the same capacity review found difficulties in rural areas.

“Outside the greater Dublin area, the population is widely dispersed with a relatively large population living in rural areas.

Due to this population distribution, Ireland has a far higher percentage of activity in rural areas than other ambulance services. This is something with which we must grapple.
When we compare ourselves with other jurisdictions, our population is dispersed in a different way. That is a good and welcome thing, but it means that there are extra challenges in ensuring that we get ambulances to every part of this country as quickly as we would like.

Murphy asked the Minister whether a permanent ambulance team could be placed at Loughglynn, which used to be a former Garda station. The site has been operating as an ambulance base since January 2016.

Harris replied with the following, saying “he took the Deputy’s point”:

“The ambulance service in west Roscommon has been reviewed a number of times in terms of available resources and demand for services. Since 2011, extra staff have been assigned to Roscommon to provide an additional 24-7 emergency ambulance and a 24-7 rapid response vehicle.

“In addition, an intermediate care vehicle has been deployed to Roscommon to undertake inter-hospital and inter-facility transfers.”

Read: ‘I’ve had enough’: A Galway GP has invoiced the ambulance service to highlight delays

Read: Choking toddler brought to Galway hospital by Garda car due to ambulance delay

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