Ambulance took hour to attend emergency

A man’s heart stopped four times while he waited more than an hour for an ambulance, according to activists campaigning for the retention of a 24-hour ambulance service in Skibbereen, Co Cork.

This was despite the fact that the response time to emergency calls should not exceed eight minutes, according to former fire officer Frank Fahy, who is also chair of WestCorkSOS, a group campaigning for Skibbereen to retain its around-the-clock ambulance service.

Mr Fahy claims that, on or about Aug 30, a call was received by ambulance control from Skibbereen to the effect that a man with severe chest pain required an ambulance immediately.

“Before an ambulance arrived 70 minutes later, the patient had gone into cardiac arrest four times and thankfully was successfully resuscitated by the doctors in the Medical Centre Skibbereen after each arrest,” said Mr Fahy. He added that, on that occasion, the ambulance had to travel from Castletownbere. There were other incidents, he said, including:

* On Sep 17, it took three hours and 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after a call from a doctor to pick up a patient. Mr Fahy said while ambulance control said the call was not booked as urgent, the doctor concerned had told him personally that he would never call for an ambulance if it was not required urgently;

* On Sep 16, Skibbereen day shift crew who should have gone off duty at 8pm, returned at 11.50pm after attending an incident in Inchigeelagh as there was no ambulance in Macroom. The Macroom unit was in Cork with a patient and had to respond to another call in Clonakilty as the Clonakilty unit was on duty elsewhere. Mr Fahy said if a 999 call was received during this time, there would have been no ambulance to respond in the West Cork area;

* On Jul 28, a two-year-old was taken seriously ill at the Square in Skibbereen at 2.30pm. A 999 call was made and the caller told that an ambulance would be dispatched from Clonakilty and the Advanced Paramedic from Bantry. In the meantime, a Garda took the child to a local doctor for treatment while awaiting the ambulance and AP.

Health Service Executive proposals to replace ambulance cover in Skibbereen with a rapid response car between 8pm-8am have been widely criticised by people living in the area. The proposals follow on from a Labour Court ruling on the on-call allowance in the ambulance service.

Mr Fahy said because a rapid response car had no capacity to transfer patients, an ambulance would still be needed. “If you consider that the population of West Cork is 82,000 and that yesterday, there was an obligation for four ambulances to be on standby at Croke Park for roughly the same number of people, it doesn’t make sense that we should lose one,” he said.

For those interested in retaining Skibbereen’s existing ambulance services, WestCorkSOS is holding a meeting at the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen at 8pm tonight.


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