Ambulance chief defends handling of response to incident where toddler was fatally injured

Robert Morton says he is satisfied correct decision was taken on basis of information given in 999 calls

An ambulance was initially dispatched to attend to a child who had fallen from a window in Midleton, Co Cork, last week but was stood down minutes later on the basis of the information received in the 999 call, it has emerged.

The director of the National Ambulance Service, Robert Morton, yesterday told the HSE South Regional Forum that a 999 call had been received about the incident at 2pm on Monday, May 6th, and the ambulance centre had dispatched an ambulance at 2.02pm on foot of the initial information received to attend to the casualty.

However, a minute after the three-minute 999 call concluded, the ambulance was stood down at 2.04pm, he said, adding that if the ambulance had been dispatched it would have arrived at the scene some 18 minutes later.

Fall from window
Vakaris Martinaitis had fallen from an upstairs window at his home at the Paddocks, Castleredmond, Midleton on that day and suffered serious head injuries. He died two days later at Cork University Hospital.


Mr Morton confirmed that the ambulance, which was dispatched but stood down, was based that day in Youghal and returned to its base there and could well have passed little Vakaris and his father being driven to CUH by their neighbour, Kevin Hennessy, in his private car.

Mr Hennessy drove the child to hospital as he understood no ambulance was available. The HSE is now conducting a review of what happened.

Ambulance was available
Mr Morton said that, contrary to media reports suggesting no ambulance was available when the child was injured, an ambulance was in fact available. He said he was constrained about what he could say because a review team has been put in place to investigate but, when questioned later by The Irish Times , he revealed more details about what the ambulance service believe happened.

“Anything I would say would probably prejudice the outcome of the review so I couldn’t offer comment other than to say it is reasonable to conclude the information the dispatcher was provided with probably informed his decision to [stand down the ambulance]”.

Mr Morton said he had listened back to the recordings of the 999 call five times since and on the basis of what he heard on the tapes, he believed the correct decision was taken by the ambulance dispatcher to stand down the ambulance on the basis of information received.

“I am also satisfied on the basis on the information that was provided, that they probably sent the appropriate response but the review will confirm what happened. Anything I would say would only be speculation,” he said.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times