The HSE has launched an urgent review of oxygen systems throughout the ambulance service following yesterday’s fire which killed a patient and injured two paramedics, one severely.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien confirmed that the blaze outside the emergency department of Naas General Hospital occurred to the rear of the ambulance.
Despite the attempts of the two paramedics and hospital staff, the patient, believed to be aged 78, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Gardaí, the Health and Safety Authority, and the HSE have launched separate investigations into the incident, which occurred in an ambulance that was less than a year old.
Mr O’Brien told RTÉ: “For now, we have an immediate concern that oxygen may have played a part in this and, for this reason, we have issued a safety action notice throughout our ambulance service and we are arranging for all oxygen equipment to be specifically checked.
“We are not saying that’s the cause but we are concerned it may be and it is prudent we carry out these checks at this time.
“The small explosion occurred towards the rear of the ambulance, as a result of which most of the ambulance has been destroyed.”
A HSE statement said that staff have been asked to refamiliarise themselves with the emergency ambulance evacuation procedures.
Siptu, which represents some members of the ambulance service, demanded an immediate examination of the entire national fleet.
Garda Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin described the blaze as “a tragic accident”.
Eyewitness Rob Moore was visiting the maternity ward with his partner. He said the ambulance was engulfed in flames “very quickly”.
“I was in the maternity ward with my girlfriend when all the alarms started going off,” he said. “I could see the flames and, by the time I got outside, it was only starting to light up, but it went up in flames very quickly.”
Mr Moore described the scene as doctors and nurses battled to save the lives of the patient and paramedic.
“It was crazy, completely hectic. No-one knew what to do or where to go,” he said.
“There were people running in from the road trying to help. There was a paramedic in the back and he supposedly got fairly burned. I saw him being pulled out and away into a smoking shelter. There was a lot of doctors and nurses around him, but I couldn’t see how he was.”
Naas Hospital emergency department was closed after the incident, but reopened last night to both walk-in and ambulance patients.
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