Anger grows over Mayo sepsis patient left waiting two and a half hours for an ambulance

An urgent appeal has been issued to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to address shortcomings in the delivery of ambulance services in Mayo.

Deputy Alan Dillon is seeking information in regard to how the service compares to the midlands and eastern counties, the number of paramedics and vehicles assigned to the county and the average wait time.

The move follows a serious situation that occurred on September 27 last when a Castlebar sepsis patient, Kathleen Guthrie, was left waiting two and a half hours for an ambulance after falling ill at her home at McHale Road.

Her husband Kevin rang 999 at approximately 8 p.m. on the date in question. He called a second time at 9.35 p.m. requesting support on his emergency. He was informed no ambulance was available in Mayo after calling on a third occasion.

At 10.37 p.m. an ambulance arrived and transferred Mrs. Guthrie to the nearby Mayo University Hospital for treatment.

Deputy Dillon said a two and a half hour delay for an ambulance in an emergency situation is completely unacceptable.

He is demanding a thorough investigation to be initiated into the nature of how this call was handled.

Kevin Guthrie, a former Castlebar town councillor, said it was very worrying and distressing to be left waiting for such a prolonged period for an ambulance to bring a patient to a hospital less than five minutes away when his ill wife was not in a position to make the journey by car.

“It's mind-boggling, to be honest, and since I first highlighting the matter on Midwest Radio, I have found many other families have had similar experiences.

"We have a responsibility to take whatever action is needed to ensure that the wait time for an ambulance in an emergency medical situation is reduced significantly from the length of time we had to endure,” he stated.

Mr. Guthrie spoke about the ordeal on Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ One television last Monday night.

William Merriman, deputy director of the National Ambulance Service, has apologised to Mrs. Guthrie that the service did not meet her expectations on this occasion and wished her well in her recovery and for the future.

He explained: “Currently all 112/999 calls to the National Ambulance Service (NAS) National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) are categorised under the internationally recognised Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System (AMPDS).

“This system ensures that life-threatening calls receive an immediate and appropriate response, while lower acuity calls may have to wait until an emergency resource becomes available.

"Treatment commences the moment a 112/999 emergency call is received as callers can be given instructions by the trained emergency call takers to deal with a number of situations including CFR, defibrillation, choking, control of external bleeding all while the emergency resources are en route to the scene.

“The NAS can confirm that at 20.09 p.m. a call was received on September 27 and, based on the caller responses to the Emergency Call Taker (ECT), the call was categorised as serious non-life threatening.

“The first available emergency ambulance resource check was carried out. There was no resources available at this time due to challenges facing acute hospitals. This can also mean we are unable to secure the release of ambulances as quickly as we need to respond to waiting calls.

“A resource was allocated at 20.22 p.m. However this ambulance was stood down at 20.45 p.m. for a higher acuity call (life-threatening).

“The caller made a further call and we noted that the caller was requesting an estimated time arrival (ETA) and advised that there was no change in the patient’s condition, no improvement. A further call was received at 21.45 p.m. for an ETA and advice from the caller to the NAS was that the patient’s condition had worsened.

“A vehicle was allocated at 21.49 p.m. This vehicle travelled to the scene and arrived at 22.25 p.m., attended to the patient at the scene and transported to hospital.”