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Pensioner who lived less than mile from local hospital died after hour-long wait for ambulance

Margaret Callaghan died just hours after being released from Letterkenny University Hospital in January 2018.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: RollingNews.ie

A WOMAN WHO lived less than a mile from her local hospital died after an ambulance took almost an hour to get to her house.

Margaret Callaghan died just hours after being released from Letterkenny University Hospital in January 2018.

The mother of eight had just undergone a non-emergency investigation and was released to her home at Bracken Lea at Mountaintop in Letterkenny.

However, she suffered serious abdominal pain later that day and her family called an ambulance.

During a pre-evidential inquest hearing at Letterkenny’s Coroner’s Court held today, it was heard how it took the ambulance almost an hour to get to Mrs Callaghan’s home.

The 71-year-old died a short time later.

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley told the hearing the full inquest will hear how there was an “offload delay” at Letterkenny University Hospital which led to the hour-long delay in getting an ambulance to Mrs Callaghan.

He explained how ambulance protocol means that patients cannot leave an ambulance and allow the vehicle to be operational again until the patient is admitted to hospital.

On the day in question, January 9th, 2018, there were two ambulances at the Accident and Emergency Department of Letterkenny University Hospital.

Both had patients inside with one delayed for six and half hours and the other for three and a half hours outside the hospital.

Dr McCauley told legal representatives for the HSE and the Callaghan family that there will be a number of factors which will have to be explored during the inquest.

These will include a full report ordered by Dr McCauley into the “offload delay” situation at the hospital as well as the general movement of patients through the hospital.

He said the report will address the “offload delay” on the night which included one ambulance waiting six and a half hours to deliver a patient which should have taken “between ten and twenty minutes.”

Among those called to give evidence will be the Director of the National Ambulance Service, Cathal O Domhnaill.

Other evidence will be given by Mrs Callaghan’s family, who were in court, and also medical evidence from various medical personnel as well as Gardai.

Dr McCauley said he will also allude to a policy document on ambulance response times published following the death of another Co Donegal woman.

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Maura Porter, aged 70, died after it took an ambulance up to 50 minutes to travel 62 kms from Letterkenny to her hometown of Carndonagh after she was knocked down coming home from mass in December 2013.

She later died from her injuries at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

The Director of the National Ambulance Service, Cathal O Domhnaill told her inquest that there were nine ambulances covering Co Donegal on the night Mrs Porter died but that five had been delayed at Letterkenny University Hospital.

The tragedy sparked a review of ambulance response times in the region.

The key finding of the report was that the ambulance offload delay at Letterkenny University Hospital for several hours led to the depletion of ambulance services at Letterkenny hospital.

Dr McCauley fixed the full inquest for a date in December.

About the author:

Stephen Maguire

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