Garda was forced to drive ambulance

A garda had to drive an ambulance to hospital as a paramedic coped with a patient in the back, it has emerged.

Cutbacks in the health service are now being blamed for the incident — the second within a month in Letterkenny.

Last November, a mother had to drive her unconscious daughter to hospital while a paramedic worked on her in the back of the family car.

An ambulance had been called by the mother, but it was only staffed by one paramedic because another had phoned in sick.

He was unable to drive the ambulance and treat the child, and a back-up ambulance was 45 minutes away.

The HSE said although an ambulance and gardaí were en route, “the clinical need of the patient took precedence and the advanced paramedic made a clinical decision to travel to hospital in the back of a car driven by the mother of the patient”.

The child has since recovered after receiving the necessary hospital treatment.

In December, a man was knocked down at a junction about 200 metres from Letterkenny Hospital and an ambulance manned by a sole paramedic was called to the scene. Normally, a two-man crew would attend such an incident.

Gardaí arrived to lend assistance and the man was placed in the back of the ambulance where he was attended by the paramedic.

With nobody else to drive the vehicle, a garda stepped in to drive it the short distance to the hospital.

Yesterday, Donegal councillor Liam Blaney said the HSE did not appear to have a record of the incident.

“Nobody was available to drive the ambulance and that’s because of cutbacks and sick leave. But the reality here is that people’s lives are being put in danger.”

At yesterday’s meeting of the HSE Regional Health Forum West, the area operations manager for the National Ambulance Service, Paudie O’Riordan, said he is following up the matter.

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