A former city mayor has launched a blistering attack on a level of ambulance cover in Connemara saying it was “outrageous” that a 60-year-old man with a life threatening illness had to wait by the side of the road for an ambulance for almost an hour.
HSE regional health forum member Cllr Padraig Conneely said the incident - which was highlighted recently in this newspaper and revealed how a local GP treated and remained with the man until the ambulance arrived - indicated how far off the mark the service was in meeting its target time.
Addressing a meeting of the forum at Merlin Park Hospital on Tuesday afternoon Cllr Conneely stated the health watchdog HIQA’s response time standard for ambulances attending the scene of a life threatening call is less than 19 minutes. However, in this incident the ambulance did not arrive for 57 minutes.
Hitting out both at the delay and what he termed the local ambulance boss’s “bland” written response to his question asking why the long wait occurred, the Fine Gael city councillor said it was a very “alarming” incident.
In his written response Paudie O’Riordan, the chief ambulance officer of the national ambulance service, outlined that the national emergency operation centre received a 999/112 call for a patient outside St Colmcille’s Church in Lettermore at 23.58 on May 27.
The reply read: “The closest available ambulance was tasked at 00.02 hours which responded from Streamstown (outside Clifden ) and arrived at the scene at 00.55 hours.”
Cllr Conneely said he was very disappointed by the chief’s “bland” response to what was a very serious incident.
He stated there was “no apology or humanity or regrets” in the statement. This was a “very alarming” and “potentially life threatening” case where a man with an acute illness could have died at the side of the road after midnight in an isolated area in Connemara, he said.
“It is outrageous that it would take one hour [for the ambulance to arrive]. You say your response time is 19 minutes. That is fake news, it’s not happening.” He went on to request that the ambulance boss would respond to him and do so in what he termed a “more humane” way.
Mr O’Riordan said he had responded to him and had stated that the nearest available ambulance was dispatched to the scene. He outlined that Clifden ambulance was not available but if it was it would have responded to the call.
He said he did not know where Cllr Conneely’s fake news claim was coming from in this context and he asked him to withdraw the comment.
He pointed out that the ambulance service strives to meet the HIQA standard of 19 minutes. “We always do our best to respond to calls. If we cannot get there it is a regret.”
He added that he had given the exact reason why it took 55 minutes to get an ambulance to the scene.
Cllr Conneely said a man almost died on the side of the road and he was not happy with that.