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Ambulance service defends actions after teen's death in two-hour journey

The National Ambulance Service says it followed all correct protocols, and says the shortest route isn’t always the best one.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE HSE’S National Ambulance Service has sought to defend its actions in the treatment of a 19-year-old during a two-hour ambulance journey – saying the choice of route in bringing her to a hospital in Galway was partly taken to allow better management.

The provision of medical services in the West has been called into question after Elaine Curley died while being brought by ambulance from the scene of a motor accident in Co Roscommon – just 15 minutes’ drive from Roscommon General Hospital, where the 24-hour emergency ward was closed last year – to other hospitals in Co Galway.

Local groups have described the minimal two-hour journey to hospitals in Galway, while the former emergency ward in Roscommon now operates a limited-hours service, as unacceptable.

In a statement issued by HSE West this evening, the National Ambulance Service offered its condolences to Curley’s family for their “tragic and untimely loss”.

It commented, however, that  national and international data indicated that the survival rate for the types of injuries that were sustained in Curley’s case – “i.e. Cardiac Arrest as a result of Blunt Trauma” – was “approximately zero”.

Several factors

It said an ambulance had been despatched and had arrived at the scene of the deceased’s accident within 16 minutes, where medical treatment was provided by five ambulance staff including two advanced paramedics.

“An Advanced Paramedic and a Paramedic continued medical treatment during the transport of the patient in the ambulance,” it said, before revealing:

The route taken was in part to allow the Advanced Paramedic and the Paramedic to better manage the patient while working in the back of a moving ambulance.

The shortest route is not always the best route depending on the nature of care being provided and the need for minimal movement in the ambulance.

The statement went on to say that there were clinically appropriate protocols in place both before and after the closure of the Roscommon ward to ensure that patients were taken to the most appropriate receiving hospital.

This decision is based on clinical criteria, and where deemed necessary, on line clinical advice, following an assessment of the patient.

The statement did not directly refer to the circumstances surrounding the journey made by Curley’s ambulance from the accident site to Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, and then onward to Galway University Hospital.

Read: ‘People are dying’ – pleas for a basic emergency service in Roscommon after death of teen

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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