Sinn Féin County Councillor Tomás Sharkey raised the issue of the Ardee Ambulance Station with the HSE.
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has expressed his “serious concern at Ambulance cover and patient safety in the north east region, as well as across the state, following a response to a recent Parliamentary Question.”
In a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Health Teachta Adams asked the Minister “the time allocated for ambulance response times for Clinical Status 1 Delta Calls in 2014 and 2015; and the percentage of ambulances that achieved this goal.”
Teachta Adams said:
“Delta calls relate to life threatening illness or injury, other than cardiac or respiratory arrest.
The response from the HSE reveals that last November – the latest month available – only 61% of ambulances achieved the Delta target response time of 18 minutes and 59 seconds.
The HSE response reveals that the average time for the 11 months up to the end of November 2015 was down on the previous year. In 2015 the percentage of Ambulances achieving the 18 minutes and 59 seconds target was 65.2 per cent. This is a drop from the 66.2 per cent in 2016.
This is a cause for serious concern. Ambulances are only reaching their targeted time to respond to a Delta 1 life threatening alert in less than two thirds of cases.
The implications of this for patient safety are a cause of grave concern.
The ambulance staff do a remarkable job under very difficult circumstances and with inadequate resources.
Several months ago I raised with the Taoiseach the condition of the ambulance fleet following an incident in August when the two back wheels of an ambulance fell off as it was transporting a chronically ill patient on a life support machine from Letterkenny to Galway. The wheel fell off outside Sligo. As well as the patient, there was a nurse, a nurse and doctor and two paramedics in the vehicle.
On that occasion only the skill of the driver prevented this incident from becoming a much more serious accident with lives lost.
The vehicle which lost its wheels was 8 years old and had done an amazing 411,786 kms. That’s over 50,000 kilometres a year.
A similar incident occurred in March 2014 in county Louth when a wheel came off an ambulance as it returned to Dundalk from Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda. The week before there was a similar incident in the mid-west and earlier that year a Dublin fire brigades ambulance also lost a wheel.
Sinn Féin has consistently made the case that the government has presided over the erosion of our public services. The information in respect of ambulance response times and the mechanical failures of some ambulances are evidence of this.
Citizens in Louth, as well as elsewhere in the state, deserve a credible and effective ambulance service and the minister has a responsibility to deliver this.”
Louth TD Gerry Adams has written to the Health Minister seeking answers to a series of questions regarding the tragic death of Dualtagh Donnelly on Monday 26th October.
The Sinn Féin President said,
“I firstly want to express my sincere sympathy to Lindzie, Fionn, Caragh, Oonagh and all of Dualtagh’s family at this terrible time. I visited Dualtagh’s wake last week and saw first hand the devastating impact his death is having on his loved ones.
“I have written to the Health Minister today seeking answers to serious questions concerning the time lapse between the 999 phonecall being logged and an ambulance arriving at the scene.
“I am also concerned to know where the ambulance was dispatched from, why it did not arrive until 39 minutes after the initial emergency phone call and whether there were available ambulances and sufficient medical personnel in Dundalk on the night Dualtagh died?
“Dualtagh’s family and the community of North Louth deserve to know the answers to these vital questions.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his concern at Ambulance response times in county Louth following an accident involving a child at Gael Scoil An Bhradáin Feasa, in Drogheda on Tuesday.
Teachta Adams said:
“Following an accidental fall in the school a pupil was knocked unconscious. It took 57 minutes for an ambulance to respond.
I know from incidents last year when one citizen died waiting on an ambulance, and from talking to ambulance staff, that there is a real issue around ambulance resources and staff availability.
At that time I raised my concerns in the Dáil with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny about ambulance response times in Louth and the risk that unnecessary delays create for patient safety.
More recently my colleague Cllr Tomás Sharkey highlighted a shortage of ambulance personnel which saw up to 24 unfilled ambulance shifts in one weekend in August.
Emergency front line ambulance staff carry out vital work under difficult conditions with insufficient numbers of ambulances and vehicles that are often passed their shelf life.
Several weeks ago I raised the case with An Taoiseach of an ambulance whose two back wheels fell off while bringing a chronically ill patient to hospital.
Only the skill of the driver in that instance prevented the incident from becoming a much more serious accident with lives lost.
On Tuesday an ambulance was called at 12.22pm. At 12.53pm the school again contacted the ambulance service to see where the vehicle was and staff informed them that there had been a ‘service outage’. However it was a full 57 minutes later, at 1.19pm, when the ambulance finally arrived.
This is a totally unacceptable wait time.
I have written to the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar seeking an explanation for Tuesdays delay. I have also asked for an explanation of ‘service outage’ and how frequently this occurs. Specifically I want to know what occurred on Tuesday that left an injured pupil in a school waiting a full hour before an ambulance arrived.
I have also submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions seeking more detailed information on the number of staff and ambulances covering the north east region.
Thankfully on this occasion the child suffered no long lasting ill effects and was discharged from hospital later on Tuesday evening. However neither the Minister nor the HSE can be complacent on this issue”.
The Sinn Féin leader expressed his “disappointment with the Taoiseach’s response during Leaders this morning.”
Teachta Adams said: “On August 26th the two back wheels of an ambulance bringing a chronically ill patient on a life support machine from Letterkenny fell off outside Sligo. As well as the patient, there was a nurse, doctor and two paramedics in the vehicle.
Only the skill of the driver prevented this incident from becoming a much more serious accident with lives lost. Subsequently the patient died, although it is not believed that the accident played a part in this. However, there was a delay of at least 30 minutes while a new ambulance as sent for.
The vehicle which lost its wheels is 8 years old and is a Mercedes Sprinter 515 model. Like all ambulances the vehicle has done an amazing number of kilometres. In this case it has travelled 411,786 kms, that’s over 50,000 kilometres a year.
According to an Inspection Report by an independent consulting engineer and assessor that I received into the accident there is a serious design flaw with this model of ambulance. The assessor reports a serious design flaw with the wheel nuts coming loose and wheel studs shearing and wheels coming off.
The engineer reports that the ‘vehicle design has one major negative characteristic in the wheel stud/nut design’.
In his opinion he states that; ‘This weakness in design can result in a wheel stud failure if a sudden stress is transmitted to the vehicle via the wheel. From my experience I would say the wheel studs on the Mercedes 515 Sprinter are too small.’
The assessor further states that; ‘what is of serious concern and which can have serious implications for crew and patient safety and the safety of other road users is despite preventative measures or systems being put in place is the reoccurrence of wheel nuts coming loose, wheel studs/nuts shearing and wheels coming off.’
The implications for patients, paramedics and other road users is obvious and I understand that some staff in the Sligo area are refusing from today to drive the Mercedes ambulance.
A similar incident occurred in March 2014 in county Louth when a wheel came off an ambulance as it returned to Dundalk from Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda. The week before there was a similar incident in the mid-west and earlier that year a Dublin fire brigade’s ambulance also lost a wheel.
I don’t know whether the ambulances involved were the same model as that which lost its wheels last month on the way from Donegal to Galway but clearly this is a question that needs to be answered.
The independent report has now been with the HSE for three weeks. The government needs to ensure that urgent action is taken to thoroughly investigate this matter and to ensure safety measures for the public, patients and medical crews are up to standard.”
In conclusion the Louth TD said:
“Sinn Féin has continually made the case that the government has presided over the erosion of our public services. This incident is another example of the lack of proper investment. It is most crucially felt in rural Ireland.
That a patient has to be transported from Donegal to Galway in an ambulance with 411,000 kilometres on the clock illustrates the deficiencies in the government’s health policy.”