Woman died after ambulance took an hour to drive two kilometres to her home

Coroner says inquest will hear about ‘offload delay’ at hospital which led to the delay

A woman who lived less than a mile from her local hospital died after an ambulance took almost an hour to get to her home in Co Donegal, a coroner has heard.

A woman who lived less than a mile from her local hospital died after an ambulance took almost an hour to get to her home in Co Donegal, a coroner has heard.

 

A woman who lived two kilometres from her local hospital died after an ambulance took almost an hour to get to her home in Co Donegal, a coroner has heard.

Margaret Callaghan (71), a mother of eight from Bracken Lea, Mountaintop, Letterkenny, had just hours earlier been released from Letterkenny University Hospital. However, she suffered serious abdominal pain later on January 9th, 2018, and her family called an ambulance.

A pre-evidential inquest hearing at Letterkenny Coroner’s Court heard it took the ambulance almost an hour to get to Ms Callaghan’s home.

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley said the full inquest would hear how there was an “offload delay” at the hospital which led to the hour-long delay in getting to Mrs Callaghan.

Protocol

He explained how protocol meant that an ambulance cannot leave the hospital again until the patient it drops off is admitted to hospital.

On the day in question, there were two ambulances at the hospital’s emergency department and both had patients inside. One ambulance was delayed for 6½ hours and the other for 3½ hours, the court heard.

Dr McCauley told legal representatives for the HSE and the Callaghan family that there will be a number of factors which will have to be explored during the inquest. These will include a full report ordered by Dr McCauley into the offload delay situation at the hospital as well as the general movement of patients through the hospital.

Policy document

Dr McCauley said he will also allude to a policy document on ambulance response times published following the death of Co Donegal woman Maura Porter (70), who died after it took an ambulance up to 50 minutes to travel 62km from Letterkenny to her home in Carndonagh after she was knocked down in December 2013. She later died from her injuries at Altnagelvin hospital in Derry.

Her inquest was told there were nine ambulances covering Co Donegal on the night of her death but that five had been delayed at Letterkenny University Hospital. The case led to a review of ambulance response times in the region.

Dr McCauley fixed the full inquest for a date in December.