Saturday 24 February 2018

Firm 'not told' of airlift time limit for transplant

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE company at the centre of the failed transplant airlift has said it was not made aware of the major time constraints on the planned operation.

Serious questions remained unanswered last night about the handling of the botched transport of Meadhbh McGivern (14).

The teenager -- who is in desperate need of a liver transplant -- was told a suitable organ had been located in London for her on Saturday night.

But, following a number of contentious decisions, she was unable to secure air transport to take advantage of the offer before the deadline elapsed. The private company organising the transport has now claimed key information -- that the liver had a shelf-life of only a few hours -- had not been passed on and so it did not know of the time pressures involved.

After getting the offer before 8pm on Saturday, Meadhbh needed to be in King's College Hospital in London by 2am Sunday to get the liver.

However, the teenager and her family ended up stranded in Sligo after an offer from the Air Corps -- which would have beaten the deadline -- was turned down.

The private firm, Emergency Medical Support Services (EMSS), was working with the HSE Ambulance Control to secure transport.

But EMSS claimed yesterday that the transplant coordinator in London had failed to say the liver had a short shelf life.

The Air Corps had offered to fly the teenager from Baldonnel Airport in Dublin at 10.30pm -- in a plane that was returning President Mary McAleese from Monaco -- but HSE Ambulance Control turned it down. EMSS said it had no direct contact with the Air Corps.

But it added it would not have turned to the Coast Guard helicopter if it had known about the urgency involved, but it only found out that the organ intended for Meadhbh was a "non-living donation" on Monday.

It said a private plane could have collected the family if it had known of the time constraint. EMSS also claimed that the Coast Guard stalled in offering a helicopter to transport the girl, citing unavailability.

It was only when the EMSS controller asked specifically about the helicopter in Sligo that the HSE went back to the Coast Guard to make another request.

But the private firm was adamant that there was no mention of the four-hour flying time to London. "At no point was there a mention of the flying time of four hours," a spokesman said.

The teenager and her family had travelled to Sligo in the hope of getting to London on the helicopter. But it was not ready to take off until 11pm and King's College said it would take to long to arrive.

I feel for Meadhbh

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News