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HSE defends two-hour tragic ambulance trip

THE HSE has defended the route taken by an ambulance which took two hours to transport a seriously ill teenager to hospital.

Elaine Curley (19) from Creggs in Co Roscommon was suffering internal bleeding after a car crash and died 30 minutes before reaching Galway hospital. The ambulance service had initially transported the young woman over a bog road before bringing her to Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe. From there they were diverted to Galway hospital.

The entire journey took more than two hours -- despite the fact that a direct route to Galway hospital from Creggs takes just one hour 20 minutes.

Earlier this month the ambulance service apologised to the family of Ms Curley for taking a bog road, describing it as "not optimal". However, the HSE has now defended their route.

"The route taken was in part to allow the advanced paramedic and the paramedic to better manage the patient while working in a moving ambulance.

"The shortest route is not always the best route depending on the nature of care being provided," the HSE statement read.

The HSE also reiterated the belief of the ambulance service that Ms Curley could not have survived the heart attack she suffered, which has a survival rate of zero.

It has also emerged that the body with responsibility for regulating the ambulance service was not made aware of the incident.

The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) confirmed it had not been informed of the case. However, it added that while it is the regulatory body for pre-hospital emergency care, it does not investigate incidents unless a complaint is received. Instead, any probes are left in the hands of the HSE.

Despite numerous queries, the HSE has refused to say whether it was aware of the incident or carried out any investigation into it. It has also failed to answer questions as to whether satnav equipment was available on board the ambulance in question.

Barry O'Sullivan, regulator with the PHECC, said the HSE had its own complaint system in place and the PHECC only investigate matters of professional competency.

"The HSE are responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of the service. We are the regulators from the point of view of professional competency," he added.

Politicians and community activists have called for the closure of Roscommon A&E to be reviewed.

Sinn Fein Health Spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain TD has said the death of Ms Cregg was a direct result of government health cuts.

"The reality is that people are dying as a direct result of this Government's policies," he added.

A relative of Ms Curley's described her as an outgoing, happy girl.

Padraig Comer, a cousin of Ms Curley's, said the family were slowly dealing with the loss of their daughter.

"It was hard on the family but they are not doing too bad now. Elaine was a lovely girl and she was really well liked," he added.

In the small village of Creggs locals remain angry that the A&E facility just 15 minutes away had been closed down, forcing the ambulance to bring the seriously ill teenager to Galway.

"It was such a tragedy, she was a lovely young girl. I suppose we'll never know what might have happened if Roscommon (A&E) had still been open," said one local.

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