HSE ambulance boss says sorry to grieving family for 999 blunder
THE HSE has apologised to a Lithuanian family whose son died after falling from a window as it admitted call centre staff failed to follow protocols in not sending an ambulance to him.
Vidas and Aukse Martinaitis, who lost their son Vakaris (2) last May, said they now wanted "learning and improvement" from the incident so no other family goes through their ordeal.
The family co-operated with the probe conducted by Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) director Dr David McManus. They also accepted a personal apology from National Ambulance Service (NAS) medical director Dr Cathal O'Donnell.
Vidas and Aukse said they remain "devastated and broken hearted" by the tragedy at the family home in the Castleredmond estate, just outside Midleton, Co Cork, last May.
"I loved my son very much. Now I just have a lot of suffering and no life.
" I could not save my son. He was a beautiful little boy...he had a good heart," Mr Martinaitis said.
Dr O'Donnell vowed that the NAS will never allow such a situation happen again.
"That call was not handled appropriately. The long-standing existing procedures in that call centre were not followed. That should not have happened and it resulted in us not dispatching the ambulance," he said.
"We should have dispatched an emergency ambulance and emergency ambulance was available.
"Had it been allocated to the call it would have been on the scene within 18 minutes of the receipt of that call.
"The staff concerned ... were acting in good faith and thought they were doing the best with the information they had received.
"But, having said all that, they did not follow the procedures that they should have.
"We handle nearly 230,000 999 calls every year. Every single one has to be handled perfectly. This was very much an exceptional occurrence," he added.
Dr McManus, in making 12 recommendations for changes to NAS call centre operations, said the ambulance controversy would not have occurred had protocols been followed.
However, even had the ambulance been dispatched it would not have changed the medical outcome for Vakaris.
The toddler suffered catastrophic skull and brain injuries when he opened an upstairs bedroom window while playing at home and tumbled on to a concrete footpath below.
His sister Angeta (8), who had briefly left the bedroom to collect a teddy, made a desperate bid to catch her brother as he fell.
Vakaris died in Cork University Hospital (CUH) two days later on May 6.
The McManus report, ordered by Health Minister James Reilly, confirmed two Cork-based call centre staff "deviated from procedures" in their handling of a desperate emergency call from a neighbour of the family, former Cork hurling star Kevin Hennessy.
An inquest already heard that Mr Hennessy and his daughter Caoimhe phoned for an ambulance immediately.
But the first call centre official believed the toddler had not suffered life-threatening injuries and advised taking him to a GP.
A second call centre official recalled an ambulance racing to Midleton.
Vakaris was taken to CUH, via a GP's surgery, in Mr Hennessy's car.
The McManus report found that, contrary to public concerns at the time, ambulance resources played absolutely no role in the incident.
The HSE confirmed an internal review was under way but declined to comment on what action, if any, was facing the two staff involved in case it prejudiced the probe.
Dr O'Donnell said the NAS is in the process of switching to two hi-tech command and control centres in Ballyshannon, Donegal and Tallaght, Dublin for all Irish ambulance operations.
In 2010, the HSE operated 12 different command and control centres nationwide with ambulances currently directed by six such centres.
All operations will be handled from Ballyshannon and Tallaght from 2015.