Ambulances waiting up to 16 hours at Dublin hospitals

Oireachtas Committee calls for capacity review of National Ambulance Service

Ambulances in Dublin are waiting up to 16 hours outside emergency departments to hand over patients, an Oireachtas committee was told yesterday.

Glen Ellis, advanced paramedic with Dublin Fire Brigade, was addressing the Joint Committee on Health, which was hearing submissions on the National Ambulance Service.

“We face, on a weekly basis, delays of three and four hours outside hospital emergency departments waiting to hand over patients. There can be delays of 10, 14, and even 16 hours because our nursing colleagues in the hospitals are struggling to get beds, which has a knock-on effect on our vehicles being able to leave and attend to life-threatening situations.”

The worst delays were at the Beaumont and Mater hospitals, he said.


The committee called yesterday's meeting, which heard from representatives of Siptu, which represents HSE and Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics, from the breakaway National Ambulance Services Representative Association (NASRA) and from the National Ambulance Service, in response to increasing concerns about ambulances missing target response times and a number of deaths.

Among those in the public gallery were the parents of Wayne McQuillan (30) who died after being stabbed in Drogheda on New Year's Eve. An ambulance took 25 minutes to arrive at the scene, having been despatched from Ardee, 25km away. A Garda on the scene brought Mr McQuillan to hospital where he died.

Response time
The recommended response times set down in 2012 by the Health Information and Quality Authority state a first responder should be on the scene of a life-threatening incident within seven minutes and 59 seconds and an ambulance within 18 minutes and 59 seconds.

Independent TD Denis Naughten said last year "in not one of the four regions (of the NAS) did the service hit the Hiqa target of 85 per cent of life-threatening calls with 18 minutes 59 seconds".

Michael Dixon of NASRA said the targets set down by Hiqa "can only at best be used as guidelines due to the fact there are gaps in the provision of ambulance cover across the State, due to base closures, non-replacement of absent personnel, posts not being filled and a lack of investment across the services".

Paul Bell, health division organiser with Siptu called for an urgent capacity review of the ambulance service, saying that to try to meet response time targets without this was "putting the cart before the horse".

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times