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Friday 22 August 2014

Investigation launched after ambulance carrying lung transplant patient breaks down

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HEALTH bosses have launched an investigation after an ambulance transporting a patient from Cork to Dublin for a lung transplant broke down.

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The patient - who was said to be “mobile” - was then transported to a garda car and rushed to the Mater Hospital to undergo the life saving operation.

The incident happened on the N7 on the outskirts of Dublin, last night.

The patient was being transported from Cork after receiving a call to say that a suitable organ had become available for transplant.

The HSE said the ambulance may have suffered a “mechanical breakdown” - however a spokeswoman could not rule out that the ambulance had run out of fuel.

“It happened along the N7 on the road to Naas but the reason it stopped will be examined in great detail,” a HSE spokeswoman said.

“It will look at whether it was an issue with the vehicle itself or something else, and that will take a bit of time to determine.”

The HSE said it will investigate the full circumstances surrounding the breakdown which could have had serious consequences for the patient involved.

“This incident did occur but the patient was brought safely to hospital. We will be looking into the matter and the vehicle to determine what occurred and why,” the spokeswoman added.

The incident comes two years after another serious blunder involving a transplant patient.

In 2011 a government inquiry was launched after a series of administrative errors meant Leitrim teenager Meadhbh McGivern missed a narrow window in which she could get to London for a liver transplant.

Despite a series of phone calls between the HSE and the Coast Guard Service, confusion arose and there was a delay in finding a suitable aircraft.

As a result she missed her deadline for the surgery - however she successfully underwent a transplant three months later.

The creation of a 24-hour centre to co-ordinate all transfers of patients to the UK was the key recommendation of a report into the circumstances surrounding the missed transplant.

There have been a series of incidents this year involving ambulances.

Earlier this year, an ambulance developed mechanical problems after responding to an emergency call. The crew were subsequently left stranded on the roadside.

In July an ambulance left Limerick City while responding to a call at Knockbeg Point at Shannon Airport where a worker was reported to have been injured in a fall.

However as the ambulance were rushing to the scene their vehicle broke down on the N18 dual-carriageway near Cratloemoyle about six kilometres from their base and 19km from Shannon.

A back-up crew was then sent to collect the stranded paramedics who returned to their Dooradoyle base to take up duty in another vehicle.

There have been complaints in the Mid West region in particular regarding the mechanical maintenance of some ambulances.

 In March, an ambulance transporting a patient from Ennis to a hospital in Galway broke done on the M18 motorway.

The vehicle's engine seized up and the crew were left waiting almost an hour for a replacement ambulance to transfer their patient on to hospital.

Just three weeks earlier, an ambulance responding to an emergency call in Co Tipperary developed problems on the M7 near Roscrea.

And in June a child died after an ambulance called by the child's parents in Tralee in Co Kerry was wrongly dispatched to an address in Cork.

The parents called the emergency services when their infant stopped breathing but the ambulance did not arrive for half an hour and the child subsequently died.

After an investigation the HSE confirmed there had been “significant challenges'' in established the exact location of the caller and regrettably this led to a delay in locating the patient.

Growing concern over the quality of the ambulance service was also highlighted the previous month when the HSE defended its decision to stand down an ambulance dispatched to an accident in Midleton, Co Cork.

This involved a two-year-old boy who suffered fatal injuries following a fall from an upstairs window.

Mark O'Regan

Irish Independent

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