A MOTHER was forced to drive her unconscious son to hospital because of a shortage of paramedics, hospital bosses have confirmed.
But the incident is just one of a number in Co Donegal in recent weeks, medical sources told the Irish Independent.
In the latest incident, a woman dialled 999 when her sick son – believed to be at primary school – suffered a fit.
A paramedic was forced to go alone to her home just outside Letterkenny because no other staff were available.
Once there the paramedic left his ambulance and travelled back to the hospital in the back of a car driven by the mother.
It has emerged that the paramedic had been left to work alone between 5pm and 8pm because a colleague had called in sick.
There was no back-up and although the paramedic had requested the assistance of two off-duty colleagues, this was refused. This claim has been verified by medical sources.
A second ambulance with two paramedics was more than half-an-hour from the scene.
However, the incident is the latest in which paramedics have been left short-staffed.
"There have been a number of similar incidents in recent months where just one paramedic has been dispatched to an incident when two were needed," said a source.
"Services have been cut to the bone, and because a member of the crew was off sick there was no cover available."
Donegal TD Pearse Doherty said medical staff have told him that there have been other incidents where a shortage of staff has affected services.
"The circumstances of this case could have been tragic and as a parent of four young children myself, the potential outcome doesn't bear thinking about," he said.
Ciaran Brogan, the leader of Fianna Fail on Donegal County Council, said he had also spoken to medical staff in Letterkenny, adding: "My great fear is that lives will be lost and that is not the fault of the staff."
The HSE said at the time of the emergency call last Monday an advanced paramedic was working alone for three hours "due to unforeseen circumstances".
"The emergency call required an advanced paramedic response and the advanced paramedic was dispatched to the scene," insisted a spokeswoman.
"The hospital was a five-minute drive from the scene."
The boy later made a full recovery.