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

The family have asked for an explanation for the delay, but say that ambulance delays are a common problem in the area.

FILE The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reports a 6% increase in the number of hospital patients waiting on trolleys in 2017. END File photo.

A FAMILY IN Co Galway were forced to have to drive their two-year-old toddler to hospital after an ambulance was delayed.

The family drove part of the way from a house in Carraroe and were due to meet the ambulance in Spiddal, when the ambulance was delayed further and they had to get a Garda car to drive them to University Hospital Galway.

The boy passed out twice during the journey, and is said to be “lucky to be alive”.

This has been described as one of a number of near-misses in the Carraroe area related to ambulance delays, which is suspected to be caused by limited resources.

Local Independent Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said that the incident “raises very serious issues about the deployment of ambulances in the region”.

It was in the region of an hour before they reached the child and would have been closer to two hours if the family had not acted themselves.

What happened

Two-year-old Kevin Griffin was on a one-week visit from Boston with his brothers and mother to visit family in Co Galway.

Last Friday just before 6pm, he began choking on a chip at a home in Clynagh, An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe).

Kevin’s uncle, who was present at the time, said that an ambulance was called immediately. But after they realised it was coming from Galway city and not Carraroe, they decided to meet the ambulance half-way.

“If it was coming from Carraroe it would have been three or four minutes,” Kevin’s uncle Padraic Ó Cualáin told

“There are two ambulances there, and they’re on call from 8am until 8pm. But when they get called to go into Galway [city] and they’re there for the day then.”

They kept in contact with the ambulance and agreed to meet at the Texaco garage in Spiddal. After the family arrived 15 minutes later, they got a call to say that the ambulance would be delayed further.

So a Garda car stopped the traffic lights and escorted them the rest of the way. It was before 7pm when they reached the hospital; Kevin was treated there but had complications upon his arrival.

The issue is particularly sensitive for the family. Just over a year ago, another of Padraic’s nephews Cillian Ó Cualáin died in a similar incident. He was 17 months old. The family had waited outside the home for the emergency services – he said he wasn’t sure if a delays been an issue that day, but said that the Coast Guard helicopter had been on scene before the ambulance.

Padraic has emailed the National Ambulance Service this morning to lodge a complaint and asking for an explanation as to why there was a delay.

“The National Ambulance Service can confirm an emergency call was received for the Carraroe area, County Galway at 17.51 on 5 January 2017,” a HSE spokesperson told in response to a request for comment on the incident.

The call was categorised as an OMEGA response; minor illness or injury.
The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) immediately dispatched the nearest available emergency ambulance at 17.52 which responded from Clifden ambulance station.

“The NEOC nurse adviser was in contact with the caller and was informed that the patient was being brought to Galway by car and an emergency ambulance was then dispatched from Galway,” the spokesperson said.

“The patient’s condition remained in the OMEGA category and as such resuscitation of the patient was not indicated or required. NEOC was also informed that the ambulance was no longer required as the Gardaí were escorting the car with the patient on board to hospital,” they added.


The ambulance delays are part of a longstanding issue for the Carraroe area.

Last June, a 60-year-old man who was suffering from an acute medical illness was left waiting on the side of the road for 57 minutes while waiting for an ambulance.

In another 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.

Three weeks ago, it was alleged that a man who was involved in a road traffic collision was left waiting on the side of the road for two hours before an ambulance arrived.

Ó Clochartaigh says that two other cases in Connemara have been brought to his attention “where delays in ambulance deployment are thought to have been factors in negative outcomes”.

He also said that there’s a question around why the local fire brigade weren’t contacted or deployed, as they would have been in the area.

“I am calling on the Minister of Health Simon Harris to investigate this case and to review the nature and protocols of the emergency services available in the Connemara and other areas in general, to ensure that this type of inefficiency does not lead to further near misses, or tragedies.”

Read: Coast Guard suspends use of Beaumont Hospital landing site after resident complaints

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

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