Road accident victim waits two hours on emergency ambulance

April 4, 2016

A pedestrian who was knocked down by a car in Culloville recently was forced to wait almost two hours on an ambulance, while relying on the assistance of a First Responder volunteer and later a paramedic to tend to his injuries, The Examiner has learned.

The man was walking in the village on Easter Sunday evening when he was struck by the vehicle, sustaining significant injuries.

First on the scene to treat the victim was a volunteer from the Community First Responders group, while a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) arrived within half an hour.  However, despite the emergency situation, it took two hours for an ambulance to reach the casualty.

So concerned was the RRV paramedic at the prolonged wait, that he recommended the injured man be moved to a nearby house for shelter from the cold and in a bid to prevent his condition worsening.  The victim was then moved from the roadside on a make-shift stretcher to await the arrival of an ambulance.  He was taken to hospital where he is continuing his recovery.

Sinn Fein’s Megan Fearon, who highlighted the prolonged wait on an ambulance, says this is not an isolated incident, pointing out that just two weeks ago a similar situation arose, that time with a heart attack victim.

This latest incident has placed emergency ambulance response times in south Armagh under the spotlight again and flagged up the precarious situation faced by patients requiring such treatment.

“Ambulance cover in south Armagh is consistently substandard,” Ms Fearon said.

“We succeeded in getting an RRV into the area, but it is now shared with another area and is not even stationed here anymore.

“This is a shameful state of affairs and in an emergency situation where every minute counts, it’s only a matter of time before inadequate ambulance cover in south Armagh leads to someone losing their life,” she said.

This, coupled with similar incidents in recent weeks, has prompted Ms Fearon to call on Health Minister Simon Hamilton to deal with the situation as a matter of urgency, suggesting that he should now consider providing funding to the Crossmaglen First Responders group.

The establishment of the First Responders team last year has been heralded as a vital lifeline for Crossmaglen and its surrounding areas, with trained volunteers dispatched to emergency calls throughout the district to provide treatment to casualties as they await the arrival of appropriate emergency services.

During a recent Assembly discussion over ambulance cover in south Armagh, Ms Fearon brought the subject to the attention of the Health Minister whose reply alluded to the existence of the First Responders group as a means of emergency cover.

She said it is incredulous that the Minister is “now relying on a community group that was set up to try and offset the potentially tragic consequences of his failure to provide proper ambulance cover for south Armagh”, considering he has not “contributed one penny” towards the voluntary group.

“If he is going to rely on groups in this way then the very least he can do is offer them some sort of funding and I would call on him to meet with the First Responders at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss how he can do that.

“While the First Responders do an excellent job in the area they cover, the fact is they cannot be a replacement for adequate ambulance cover,” she added.