Woman died after two-hour wait in rain for fire crew due to HSE protocol

HSE protocol was the reason a 25-stone ill woman, dressed only in a nightgown, was forced to wait two hours in torrential rain while emergency crew waited for back-up to carry her to the ambulance.

Woman died after two-hour wait in rain for fire crew due to HSE protocol

The 73-year-old Dutch woman suffered cardiac failure and died of natural causes after she was placed in the ambulance, an inquest heard. However, Killarney coroner Terence Casey directed the jury to take into account the circumstances surrounding the death of Cobie Pols, aged 73, of Kaarel, Doormanstraat, The Netherlands, and how she was moved from the mobile home into the ambulance.

The court heard it would have been too dangerous for the two-man ambulance crew to move the 25-stone woman down a narrow slippery path and makeshift steps on one of the worst nights of the year. Protocol demanded they get approval from the HSE to call out the fire brigade.

A second ambulance requested as back-up did not arrive for some time because of the system of call out in operation for Cahersiveen.

Ms Pols was a regular visitor to the home of Wilma and Johnny O’Connor a former Fine Gael Kerry county councillor at Ardmoniel, Killorglin. She and her husband, Dirk Varley, had one time lived in south Kerry, but had moved back to Holland eight years ago.

In the early hours of Oct 17, 2012, Cobie became ill and complained of leg pain. An ambulance arrived at 4.30am. A fire brigade also had to be called to move her out of the mobile home, Wilma O’Connor said.

However, protocol at the time meant the crew could not call the local fire brigade themselves, but had to get this sanctioned by the HSE first as they would have to pay for it. The inquest heard of desperate attempts by the first ambulance crew, and the O’Connors to move the ill woman first into her wheelchair, and out of the mobile home. Eventually six firemen formed a chain and moved the wheelchair into the ambulance.

Coroner Terence Casey asked how long the deceased was “out in the elements” and ambulance crew member Nealie Warren said, “two hours, I’d say”.

Mr Warren said the protocol had now changed.

The jury returned a “narrative verdict” and in accordance with the medical findings of the pathologist of death from cardiac failure with contributory causes such as diabetes.

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