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Ambulance service under fire

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VENUE The injured player had to wait two hours for an ambulance, despite Pat Quigley Park in Ballyheane being only eight kilometres from Mayo University Hospital.

Injured 16-year-old soccer player waited for two hours for ambulance

Oisín McGovern

The new Cathaoirleach of Castlebar Municipal District Michael Kilcoyne is demanding an investigation into Mayo’s ambulance service after a teenage footballer was forced to endure an agonising wait.
The 16-year-old boy was left waiting for an ambulance for two hours in lashing rain after he dislocated his shoulder and suffered suspected spinal injuries following a collision at a soccer game in Ballyheane on Saturday.
Ballyheane FC’s pitch is situated just eight kilometres away from the ambulance depot at Mayo University Hospital. On learning about the wait time, Cathaoirleach Michael Kilcoyne branded it ‘disgraceful’.
The player dislocated his shoulder after accidentally colliding with another player while playing for Partry Athletic against Ballyheane ‘B’. In addition to injuring his shoulder and ripping all the ligaments, the teenager was also experiencing back pain.
A paramedic who attended him at the scene said that he could not be moved until an ambulance arrived, due to the suspected spinal injuries.
The fixture was abandoned following the collision, which occurred at 8.25pm. However, an ambulance did not arrive on the scene until 10.30pm. During that time, volunteers used coats and umbrellas to keep him warm and dry on what was a cold and wet evening.

‘Crazy’
Speaking to The Mayo News, Partry Athletic manager Neil Donnelly described the two-hour wait for the ambulance as ‘a disgrace’.
Mr Donnelly claimed that there were only two ambulances covering the whole of county Mayo on that evening, which he said was ‘crazy’.
“The original ambulance was coming out but apparently called to a life-threatening situation, so they abandoned it,” he said.
“By the time they got a second one, they were waiting on some guy to come from Roscommon so they could have a second person in the ambulance, to get the second ambulance up and running.
“That’s the situation Mayo was in on Saturday night, and people just don’t realise it.
“It’s a disgrace, in fairness. Two hours lying on a pitch, and it p*ssing rain.”
He said that what had occurred was ‘not really the fault of the ambulances’. “The paramedics that got there came as quick as they could. It’s just that the service wasn’t there, full stop. I’d hate to think, if he had spinal injuries, the damage that could have been done from sitting there for two hours.”

‘Not good enough’
Speaking to this newspaper yesterday evening (Monday), local county councillor Michael Kilcoyne blasted the incident, describing it as ‘unbelievable’.
Cllr Kilcoyne, who is a member of the HSE Regional Health Forum, called for an investigation into the way the ambulance service is being run.
“You have a centre of population in Castlebar… anywhere where there is a big number of people you are always likely to have accidents. There should be an ambulance available within a reasonable period of time,” said Cllr Kilcoyne.
“They talk about the first hour, or the first 20 minutes… It would be the same thing if it happened a spectator at that match, if they got a heart attack they’d still have to wait the same length.
“It’s just disgraceful that somebody who’s injured or sick has to wait that long for an ambulance. That’s the way things are. That’s the way the HSE is, that’s the way the Department of Health is.
“I’m saying there should be an investigation into the way that the ambulance service is run in terms of the availability of ambulances to arrive at the scene of an incident,” he continued.
“I mean two hours, on what was a very cold evening on Saturday evening, that’s not good enough.”

‘Cut everything’
The Independent councillor said that similar cutbacks in resources were being applied to policing in the Castlebar area.
“You call looking for an ambulance and someone will look at the map and see where there is an ambulance available, and it could be 100 miles away, and it will dispatch that ambulance, even though you are 100 miles away,” Cllr Kilcoyne said.
“It’s not acceptable that that’s the kind of a service we have, but that’s the reality of what we’re getting from this government right along the line. They are spreading the same system into the Department of Justice as well.
“It seems to be an unwritten policy in the Government to cut everything they can.”
In a response to questions in relation to ambulance availability, the HSE stated yesterday (Monday) evening, that it cannot comment on individual cases when to do so might reveal information in relation to identifiable individuals, breaching the ethical requirement on them to observe their duty of confidentiality.
“Generally speaking, during busy periods when emergency ambulances are responding to life threatening or serious 999 calls or waiting to handover patients at Emergency Departments, calls which are clinically classified as an ALPHA (second lowest acuity case call, which are not encompassed by any response times targets) may need to wait longer for a response.
"The Code of Practice for Safety at Sports Grounds provides guidance and advice for the organisers of sporting events,” said the statement.