Hospital delays for rapid response too long

Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Galway and Mayo General Hospital all have the longest ambulance turnaround times at 40 minutes or more, it has emerged.

Delays at University Hospital Galway’s emergency department resulted in less than one in 10 ambulances (7.9%) spending 20 minutes or less transferring patients.

Both Mayo General Hospital (9.5%) and Cork University Hospital (10.6%) were among the top three worst performers for achieving the ambulance turnaround target of 20 minutes or less.

Mayo General Hospital had the longest average turnaround time of at 44 minutes. In more than one in six cases (17.3%), it took one to two hours for an ambulance to complete the handing over of a patient.

The average time spent by ambulances at University Hospital Galway was 42 minutes while the average time was 40 minutes at Cork University Hospital, according to new figures from the HSE.

On 1,089 occasions in May, ambulances had to wait an hour or more before being cleared at hospitals and ready to respond to calls again.

The figures show that just four of the 30 hospitals met the 20-minute turnaround for 50% or more of the ambulances attending their emergency departments.

Fianna Fáil’s health spokesma Billy Kelleher, who had asked for the figures, said that, unsurprisingly, many of the hospitals with low turnaround rates also experienced overcrowding in their emergency departments.

“The delays in transferring patients are clearly not the fault of the ambulance service. Rather they are symptomatic of the ongoing difficulties in our acute hospitals,” said Mr Kelleher.

Mr Kelleher said that the best-performing hospital was Tallaght Paediatric in Dublin, with 58.3% of turnarounds achieved in 20 minutes or less.

Only three other hospitals managed to achieve 20-minute turnaround rates of 50% or more. They were Dublin hospitals Connolly (52.7%) and St James’s (50.4%), together with Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, Co Meath (53.9%).

The average ambulance turnaround time for Connolly Hospital and St James’s was around 22 minutes. It was 23 minutes for Navan Hospital.

Of 20,032 ambulance hospital attendances in May, just 5,820, or 29.1%, had a turnaround within the 20-minute timeframe.

Mr Kelleher said it was quite alarming that an ambulance going to hospitals in Galway or Mayo was almost twice as likely to have to wait an hour or more before being ready to respond to a new call.

“Of course, missing turnaround targets has a knock-on effect for the ambulance service as it makes it harder to respond to new call outs in the target times if paramedics are delayed at hospitals,” said the TD for Cork North Central.

Cork University Hospital — one of the largest ambulance-receiving hospitals in the country — has been making every effort to release ambulances as soon as possible.

A spokesperson said staff had to ensure patients were transferred to the emergency department and that sometimes several ambulances presented at once, causing delays and there was a system in place to address this.

Management at CUH review ambulance clinical handover performance every month and the reasons for any delays are also examined in detail.


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