Ambulance delay of nearly 90 minutes for injured and terminally ill pensioner

“All local resources were engaged on emergency calls at the time of this incident,” the HSE said, “and the nearest available emergency ambulance was dispatched from Virginia once it became free.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

“All local resources were engaged on emergency calls at the time of this incident,” the HSE said, “and the nearest available emergency ambulance was dispatched from Virginia once it became free.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 01:01

A terminally ill pensioner who suffered a head wound in a fall at her Meath home had to lie dazed for an ambulance to arrive – 87 minutes after a neighbour rang 999.

Johnny Mongey has sharply criticised the HSE after he and Kathleen Gilgunn’s husband Denis (97) watched helplessly last month while they waited for the emergency services at her home in Kells. Mr Mongey said he had to ring 999 after Ms Gilgunn (87) fell while answering the front door to her home-help.

“She came out to answer the door to the carer, slipped and split her head off the hall table. The carer, who was still outside, just called out to me for help. Her husband Denis, who is 97 years old, had to actually climb over her with his walking aid to get to open the front door. It was 7.32pm when I rang 999 and then I began washing the blood from the back of Kathleen’s head . . .

“At 8pm, a first responder jeep arrived to check she was all right but they couldn’t really do anything but wait with us for the ambulance to take her to hospital. All the while Kathleen, who has lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, was becoming more upset and agitated,” he added.

It was 8.57pm before an ambulance, dispatched from Virginia, Co Cavan, arrived. Ms Gilgunn was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where she lay on a trolley for two nights, according to Mr Mongey. She remains in hospital.

The incident unfolded on Saturday evening, February 22nd, but events have only been revealed in recent days by Mr Mongey, who felt the case needed to be highlighted. “It’s an absolute joke and I’m raging that an elderly woman had to wait that long in a state of confusion and fear . The paramedics who came after a half an hour were great but they couldn’t do anything else for her but wait with us.”

Ms Gilgunn’s son Jimmy, who is home from England, described the Irish health system as “inadequate” and “puttingpeople’s lives at risk”. He said: “It took nearly 90 minutes for an ambulance to get to my mum. She had a head injury. What would have happened if she had cracked her skull open? I’m sure she is not the only one to have had to wait for an ambulance and have to lie on a trolley in hospital for two nights — the health system is putting patients through anguish.”

He continued:“There were people lining the corridors in Drogheda hospital on trolleys. It was like a war zone.” Meath West Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, who is heading the new National Hospital Campaign, said: “The deep unparalleled cuts in the hospital service is leading to the breakdown of this key frontline service. This is at least the 30th such serious incident reported to me in the last 10 months.”

In a statement, the HSE confirmed that an emergency call was received at 7.32pm. “The nearest available resource [a rapid response vehicle with an advanced paramedic on board] was mobilised at 7.35pm and arrived on scene at 8pm. The patient was treated and stabilised at the scene by the advanced paramedic. All local resources were engaged on emergency calls at the time of this incident and the nearest available emergency ambulance was dispatched from Virginia once it became free and arrived on scene.”

In relation to Ms Gilgunn spending two nights on a trolley in hospital, the HSE said: “Louth Meath Hospital Group does not comment on individual patients. ”