PARAMEDICS reported problems with a Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance days before it broke down on its way to hospital – leaving an ill child trapped on board for 40 minutes.
An investigation has been launched by Dublin Fire Brigade after the ambulance, which was carrying the child to Temple St Hospital in Dublin, stalled at Tonlegee Road in Raheny on St Patrick's Day.
One of the paramedics on board had to kick his way out of the ambulance to free the child who was stabilised by paramedics after suffering an anaphylactic allergic reaction and needed hospital attention.
However, John Kidd, chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association, told the Irish Independent last night that paramedics had reported faults in the vehicle last Friday.
The ambulance – which has clocked up 350,000kms since it went on the road in 2010 – halted and locked shut, leaving the passengers locked inside.
"There were problems with the locking mechanism on Friday. But due to cutbacks mechanics are no longer on duty over the weekend. Ambulances were run off their feet over the weekend. No ambulance which has mileage of more than 250,000kms should be on the road but some of the 12 vehicles have double that," he warned.
The ambulance had two paramedics and the child, who was accompanied by a relative, when it stopped and locked shut, leaving all the passengers trapped.
A fire engine was sent to the scene but a large window on the left-hand side, which should be the emergency exit could not be opened. A fire crew who arrived at the scene broke a window but passengers were still unable to leave because of a protective perspex plastic. Eventually, one of the paramedics inside the ambulance had to use the force of his body to dislodge the perspex.
A spokeswoman for Dublin Fire Brigade said it is taking the incident very seriously and has launched an investigation.
"This includes making an enquiry with the manufacturer of the ambulance to identify what might have caused the ambulance to break down, and to safeguard against the potential for a similar incident taking place again in another ambulance of that make.
"Our primary concern is patient welfare and we can confirm that the patient was later transferred to hospital safely.
"It is of course regrettable that an incident like this occurred, but again, I wish to stress that this was an isolated incident which will be investigated thoroughly with the objective of preventing a recurrence.
"We are not in a position to make any additional comment at this juncture, pending the outcome of the investigation."
Mr Kidd and SIPTU organiser Brendan O'Brien said they deplored any moves to hand the Dublin Fire Brigade service over to the HSE which runs all other ambulances but has been at the centre of major criticism over 999 delays.
The Dublin Fire Brigade service is on the road around the clock and needs another three vehicles to meet the demands, said Mr Kidd.