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Teen in cardiac arrest turned away from Navan hospital and sent to Drogheda

Paramedics across the country say they are being forced to travel long distances with critical patients.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A 14-YEAR-OLD girl who was in cardiac arrest was turned away from the hospital in Navan and sent a further 20 minutes to Drogheda because of a change in the hospital age limits earlier this year.

The incident occurred on 15 May, when a National Ambulance Service crew were called to the scene of the cardiac arrest. After managing to get the girl’s pulse back, paramedics rushed her to Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, which was just minutes away.

En route, they were told the hospital could not take her as it did not have the expertise required for paediatric care and they would instead have to transport the girl to the hospital in Drogheda, which was a further 20 minutes away.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie the NAS said “emergency ambulance staff operate within the agreed protocol with the acute hospital services in line with services offered by each hospital”. They said patients under the age of 16 are not treated at Navan Hospital, as per the change in age limit announced in March this year.

Before then, the hospital had been treating children aged 14 and over.

In a statement at the time, it said:

Children and young people aged under 16 years will now attend or be referred to a Hospital that can provide a full paediatric service. Full paediatric services are provided at various locations in the north east including at Cavan General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

However the assumption among paramedics in the Meath area was that in very serious circumstances, like a cardiac arrest, the hospital would still take under 16s as it is literally a matter of life and death.

General Secretary of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA), Tony Gregg, said this is an issue paramedics across the country struggle with every day. In Dublin, children can either be taken to Temple Street Hospital or to Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin but outside of the capital it is a different story and can mean travelling long distances with critical patients.

Even adult services for cardiac arrest can cause problems.

“In Wexford, with adults in cardiac arrest you have to travel to Cork or St Vincent’s in Dublin. That’s a huge distance to travel with someone in cardiac arrest,” he explained.

It means the guys are in the back of the ambulance for miles dealing with it instead which is not the perfect scenario. It can be extremely dangerous as they’re travelling at high speed and people are not strapped in or even holding on to anything because they have their two hands on the patient’s chest.

“All hospitals would have the facility for basic life support – certainly more than the ambulance can provide and they would have a greater level of staffing than we’d have in the back of the ambulance,” he said.

Meath councillor Wayne Forde said he thought the situation was “unfair” on paramedics, who were doing what they thought was best for the patient.

“I am very concerned for future patients in Navan and county Meath that may end up in a similar situation,” he said, adding that he has written to the Minister for Health about the incident.

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