Minister expresses condolences over Donegal ambulance delay death

Regina Doherty offers sympathy to family for death that ‘potentially shouldn’t have happened’

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary warned that the good work of the ambulance services was being undermined because of overcrowding in emergency departments.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary warned that the good work of the ambulance services was being undermined because of overcrowding in emergency departments.

 

A Government Minister has said it would be very difficult to get over a death that “potentially shouldn’t have happened” when an ambulance took 71 minutes to get to a woman’s home just 2km from the hospital.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the death of Margaret Callaghan from Letterkenny, Co Donegal in January of last year was a tragedy.

Expressing her condolences to Ms Callaghan’s family, Ms Doherty told the Dáil she could not begin to “understand or appreciate how difficult it will be for them to get over her death given that it potentially shouldn’t have happened”.

Ms Callaghan’s inquest took place at Letterkenny Coroners’ Court on Wednesday and was raised in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary on Thursday.

He pointed out that even after the 71 minutes wait for the ambulance, Ms Callaghan (71) was left waiting in the ambulance because of congestion at Letterkenny University Hospital. One ambulance ahead of hers was waiting 3½ hours to unload a patient and another for 2½ hours.

Urgent call

Mr Calleary warned that the good work of the ambulance services was being undermined because of overcrowding in emergency departments. He pointed out that the medical director of the National Ambulance Service had said issues with offload times were endemic. Mr Calleary said there was an urgent call on the health authorities to review “ambulance off-load protocols”.

The Mayo TD noted that the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said in all hospitals that 95 per cent of handovers from ambulances should be done in less in 20 minutes,. He said the target was only met in 37.1 per cent of cases and sometimes it was as low as 16 per cent.

The real problem was a lack of staff and resources at hospitals with hundreds of nurse and consultant vacancies, he added.

Ms Doherty said she could not guarantee that there would not be a repeat of such an incident but that measures were in place to avoid it.

She said demand for hospital emergency department services was on the increase and that trolley numbers at Letterkenny hospital were “persistently high”. She said a framework plan had been developed for the facility and that some €26 million in funding was being provided with the HSE’s winter plan for hospital emergency departments.