A 76-YEAR-OLD man requiring urgent treatment for a suspected case of meningitis was forced to wait three and a half hours for an ambulance last Wednesday, August 21, after one was called to his home in North Square, Sneem.
A neighbouring doctor, as well as an off-duty fireman, who is a trained paramedic, waited with the man for the duration of the time it took for an ambulance to get to the house, while the man's wife was forced to look on in distress.
When the ambulance arrived, it then took a further 30 minutes to stabilise the man in his home before rushing him to Cork, which took over an hour.
This resulted in excess of five hours elapsing from the time the ambulance was requested to the time the man was admitted to hospital, where he went into intensive care.
The man's condition has improved in time and is due to be released from hospital (today), Wednesday, August 28. It is understood that at the time the Kenmare ambulance, which serves the Sneem area, was transporting a patient to Cork when the call was received.
The procedure for when the Kenmare ambulance is unavailable is that one is sent out from Killarney to deal with the incident.
This follows the signing of a petition by 8,500 people in the Iveragh and Beara peninsulas area in June calling for the continued availability of a 24/7 ambulance with patient carrying capacity in Kenmare.
Ambulance services in the Cork and Kerry region have been undergoing reorganisation, after a labour court recommendation in 2011 made proposals to replace ambulances with 'rapid response vehicles' at certain times. This would leave the Kenmare area without an ambulance with patient carrying capacity at certain times, as the 'rapid response vehicles' would only serve to stabilise the patients while waiting for an ambulance.
"If they don't keep the ambulance in Kenmare, then this place will go fully into decay, health wise," said Mignonne Williams, District Nurse in Sneem.
"I'm fully behind keeping that ambulance in Kenmare," she added.
The petition was initiated by the 'Save Our Ambulance Kenmare' group, who were formed after a public meeting in the town in April of this year. SOAK has been campaigning for the ambulance to remain in Kenmare as many places in Iveragh and Beara are at least 90 minutes from the emergency departments at Tralee and Cork hospitals.
At the time of going to print the The Kerryman's had not received a response from the HSE to our questions.