A woman lay in a pool of blood in her home in north Connemara for an hour and forty minutes waiting for an ambulance to take her to hospital. The young mother, who had a baby a few weeks earlier, was haemorrhaging heavily but had to endure the long wait because there was no ambulance available. She was eventually transferred to Mayo General Hospital. She was later told that she was within 20 minutes of losing her life.
She is one of the shocking cases documented by doctors and patients who are calling for an end to waiting times, of as long as two to three hours on occasions, for emergency ambulances.
Concerned locals have joined forces in their quest for an "acceptable" ambulance service and have formed an Ambulance Crisis Group. It is organising a protest march at 2pm next Wednesday from Eyre Square to the HSE office in Shantalla and then on to University Hospital Galway.
Patricia Keane, from Currywongane in Kylemore, set up the organisation after an elderly woman she knew had to wait three and a half hours for an ambulance.
"She had contributed to her community all her life and I felt, is that the way we respect our seniors? They are not given any dignity. In Connemara at present there can be a two to three hour wait for an ambulance from call out time to time of arrival at the patient, (Then, there is the 1.5 hour journey to the nearest hospital ). We feel this is an infringement of our human rights, that we are being discriminated against in this manner yet we pay the same tax as everybody else."
She learned of more "horrific" cases of very ill people waiting for hours to be taken to hospital. A man who suffered a stroke is undergoing rehabilitation because he did not get to hospital in the "golden hour" to be administered the necessary treatment. A young mother in Clifden watched her child losing consciousness but was unable to access an ambulance for well over an hour.
Areas affected in northwest Connemara include Leenane, Maam, Clifden Letterfrack, Roundstone, Ballyconneely, Clonbur and Cornamona, she says. "There are two ambulances in the whole of Connemara, there is one in Carraroe and one in Clifden. There are only three ambulances on duty in Galway city by day and two at night. These ambulances could be anywhere and if people need help in Galway or Roscommon our ambulances are called. This is leaving us totally exposed."
Ms Keane is urging the public to support the march, saying the ambulance issue is something that will affect everyone at some stage. "People in the city for example may not be aware that there is such little cover there."