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Waiting Times

No ambulance for 18-month-old baby who stopped breathing and started turning blue

After almost 30 minutes of waiting, the baby’s father called back and said he would drive his daughter to the hospital himself.

THE FATHER OF an 18-month-old baby has described how no ambulance arrived after he called 999 from his Dublin home when his baby became unresponsive, stopped breathing and started turning blue.

After 30 minutes of waiting he called back and said he would drive his daughter to the hospital himself.

Dublin City Council said that the night in question had been extremely busy and that no emergency ambulance was available when the call was received.

The father of the baby told that his baby was ill that evening with a high temperature and she became lethargic.

He called for an ambulance and says he was told one was being dispatched and to watch out for it; however almost 30 minutes later, the ambulance had still not arrived.

I re-dialled 999 to be told that it was a very busy night and no ambulances were available, they would get one to us when they could but could offer absolutely no guidance as to when that would be.

In the meantime, the child had started responding again and she appeared to be out of immediate danger.

However, he was told that his baby would still need medical attention as she was so young.

The 999 dispatcher told me that because she was such a young baby, she needed medical attention and my options were to either wait an unknown amount of time for an ambulance or drive her to A&E myself.

“That wasn’t much of a choice – we had no option but to drive to A&E ourselves. I’m very thankful to my dad for coming to our aid that night and driving us to Temple St as I learned in hindsight that I was so upset and distressed, I was not in a fit state to drive.

“If I had got behind the wheel of a car at that point to drive to A&E, there could have been a bigger tragedy and this is another key risk caused by poor ambulance response times.”

Following an assessment, he was told his daughter had suffered a febrile convulsion which turned out not to be life threatening but she was very sick for the next five days before making a full recovery.

‘Sizeable queue had formed’

The caller added that they live in Dublin “within a few miles of ambulance stations and major hospitals and not in a very rural area”.

In a statement Dublin City Council said Dublin Fire Brigade did not have an emergency ambulance immediately available when it received this call.

It added, “The night in question was very busy and the ERCC (Eastern Regional Control Centre) received 36 requests for ambulances in the two hours leading up to this call and a further twenty over the next hour. A sizeable queue had formed and was being managed on a priority basis.

“As such this call was out in queue at 23.19hrs, in line with current procedures the ERCC contacted the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) at 23.20hrs and requested a resource to attend but the NAS were also very busy and had no resource available at that time.”

It said it received a second call at 23.47hrs and the ambulance was cancelled when the caller indicated he would drive the patient to hospital.


The latest performance report giving the National Ambulance Service response times was published in March.

It shows that of the 22,402 calls reported, only 4,736 (21%) were responded to within 20 minutes.

The target time is 19 minutes.

An ambulance arrived within an hour for 87% of cases – but only 45% of those were within 30 minutes and 21% within 20 minutes. The father of the baby in question said:

The fact that my daughter’s illness ultimately proved not to be life threatening is beside the point. We didn’t know that at the time and the ambulance service also classified the call as ‘high priority’. Yet still no ambulance was available.

“This leaves me very concerned that the next time I or another member of the public really needs an ambulance, none will arrive. This is a frightening thought.”

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