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Ambulance services facing 'significant' delays of more than an hour in Dublin

Dublin Fire Brigade serves emergency call outs for Dublin city, as well as the greater Dublin area.

Dennis Keeley, chief fire officer at DFB
Dennis Keeley, chief fire officer at DFB
Image: Leah Farrell

EMERGENCY AMBULANCE SERVICES in Dublin are frequently facing long delays – of over an hour in some cases – when responding to call outs.

Chief fire officer with Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), Dennis Keeley, updated Dublin City Council on management and operations within one of the busiest emergency fire and ambulance services in the country, at a committee meeting yesterday. 

Councillor Christy Burke told the meeting of a resident who required immediate psychiatric treatment at a housing complex in the north inner city, but was forced to wait for over an hour for an ambulance to arrive last week. 

The DFB serves emergency call outs for Dublin city, as well as the greater Dublin area.

“I had to raise this with great concern because it was an hour and five minutes of a wait for an ambulance to respond to a patient with psychiatric issues,” Burke told afterwards. 

“You didn’t need a degree from Trinity to see that it was serious and two residents said they needed to get him seen to, so they rang the ambulance.

“In this case and cases similar, Dublin Fire Brigade is forced to prioritise the emergency acute cases such as a cardiac arrest, and if that call comes in two or three minutes after this type of call, then they have to attend that,” he said.

“But you’re going to have to have additional ambulances to be able to address this issue and I know from speaking to the men and women in there that they’re frustrated about it too,” he added.


Keeley confirmed that this was not an isolated case saying “this is happening all too frequently”.

Unfortunately it has become, far too frequent where we do have queuing for ambulances,” he said.

“The provision of ambulances is based on priority on the level of care that essentially has been assessed to be required.

“If it was deemed to be of very high priority, then the response would have been much quicker, but notwithstanding, delays have become more significant.”

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Keeley said they DFB personnel were doing their best to manage the situation but admitted it was sub-standard for where the service should be.

It’s not infrequent that that’s happening and we are doing our best to manage it. It’s not to the standard we aspire to in the services and we’re working hard to make sure people get ambulances.”

Burke attributed the long delays to hospital overcrowding, which was leading to ambulances “babysitting” patients outside emergency departments when those departments were too busy to handle any more patient intakes.

“Personnel tell me – and I have been dealing with his for five years – that they had patients waiting at the doors of A & E and they couldn’t leave the patient.

“When you go to A & E and there’s no trolleys or beds they have to stay in the ambulance and they babysit them until a bed or trolley becomes available,” he said.

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