Councillor criticises HSE after waiting three hours for ambulance

Cork woman questions why crew had to stay with her for two hours while she was processed

A member of Cork County Council has sought an explanation from the HSE for delays in ambulance response times after she spent three hours waiting for an ambulance to take her to hospital in Cork.

Cllr Mary Linehan-Foley has also sought an explanation for the fact the ambulance crew had to wait another two hours with her while she was being processed at Cork University Hospital.

Cllr Linehan-Foley said she fell in a cafe in Youghal around 12pm on December 21st and an ambulance was sought 10 minutes later after it was thought she might have a broken hip.

"It seems there was no ambulance available that day in the county of Cork and an ambulance had to come from Waterford city so I was waiting three hours before they arrived to take me to hospital.


“And then the ambulance crew had to stay with me for another two hours at CUH until I was handed over to a triage nurse so I am asking the HSE and the CUH for explanations for both delays.

Cllr Linehan-Foley stressed that her concern was not personal but rather that other people including some who are seriously ill, may be suffering from similar delay in response and admission times

“I am asking two questions – firstly on the day in question, December 21st, why did it take three hours for an ambulance to come, regardless of the fact that it was coming to attend to me.

“And secondly what is the system in CUH Emergency Department for handing over a patient from an ambulance. Do they have a particular timeline that they have to meet for handover of patients?”

“I expect that the HSE will tell me that the Cork ambulances were attending emergency cases but if that’s the case there should be more ambulances, nobody should have to wait three hours for one.”

Cllr Linehan-Foley has been supported in her call for clarification by Sinn Féin's Cllr Paul Hayes from Clonakilty who highlighted a similar experience regarding an ambulance based in west Cork.

According to Cllr Hayes, an ambulance based in Skibbereen was recently dispatched to pick up a patient in Whitegate in east Cork – a distance of 120km with a travel time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Cork Airport

The issue of poor ambulance response times was also highlighted recently by the Air Accident Investigation Unit in a report on an incident at Cork Airport where a woman suffered a serious fall.

The woman was disembarking from a flight to Cork on May 26th when she fell and suffered a number of injuries.

She told the AAIU investigators that she believed she did not arrive at CUH’s Emergency Department until 90 minutes after she fell.

An Airport Police Officer told AAIU investigators that at about 6pm he saw the woman lose her balance and fall from the stairs and he immediately called for an ambulance.

It was decided not to move her until she had been assessed by ambulance personnel and Airport Police and Fire Service personnel tried to make her as comfortable as possible in situ.

They continued to monitor the woman until an ambulance arrived at 6.50pm and took her to hospital, said the Police Officer whose times were confirmed by a ground handler employee.

The AAIU acknowledged that the APFS had been monitoring the woman but noted the length of time it took for the ambulance to arrive at Cork Airport and remove the injured woman to hospital.

“The investigation considers that an hour is a significant time for a person with potentially serious injuries to be lying on the ground at an international airport,” said the AAIU investigators.

They noted that Hiqa had recommended a response time for “patients with serious but not life-threatening conditions which require an immediate response” to be 18 minutes and 59 seconds.

The Irish Times has yet to receive a response from the HSE in relation to queries about both incidents.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times