Several of the Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) and HSE’s ambulance fleet were held up outside the Mater Hospital for over an hour this week in a scenario that has been described as on the “brink of chaos”.
It is understood the ambulances were delayed due to a lack of trolleys being available for patients in the hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).
A picture emerged on social media showing eight ambulances parked outside the facility, with at least one more vehicle believed to be out of shot.
A well-informed source confirmed that four ambulances from the DFB fleet were held up on Tuesday afternoon at approximately 3pm, adding that there are systems in place to “move things along” if such a situation occurs.
Some were delayed for over an hour while the crews had to tend to patients they had brought in before they could get their stretchers back and go on another call, in what has been described as “a regular occurrence”.
According to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation there were 26 patients on trolleys in the Mater Hospital’s Emergency Department on Tuesday.
A representative for the Mater Hospital said that there was an “exceptional number of admissions” in the past two days and the waiting time on ambulance turnarounds was “increased substantially.”
“The situation has since been alleviated in the last 24 hours and the number of admissions to the A&E are back to normal,” they added.
On March 18 the hospital experienced a similar problem when six of the DFB’s ambulances were delayed some for more than an hour.
Later that month Beamount Hospital also suffered a backlog, with seven ambulances parked outside the facility one morning, with some being delayed for almost two hours.
Labour TD Joe Costello described the ambulance delays as “totally unacceptable” and called on Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to address the on-going problem.
“The present circumstances are totally unacceptable, and the Minister must address this issue urgently, as a constant bottle neck could lead to potentially detrimental circumstances,” he said.
Mr Costello added that he hoped the creation of four primary care facilities will decrease the number of patients waiting on trolleys, and in turn prevent emergency vehicles from being held up at hospitals.
A spokesperson for the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) explained how there is a constant problem with emergency vehicles being help up at hospitals, and called for more ambulances to be added to the current DFB and HSE fleet
“The system is currently in crisis, and it isn’t just a problem that you can blame on the time of year, as is done around January. Imagine the situation if a serious accident occurred while this backlog was happening?
“We’re on the brink of chaos, and it’s only through sheer luck that nothing major has happened yet.
“The problem is down to resources, so the logical solution is to add more ambulance vehicles to the current number,” the spokesperson said.
The DFB ambulance fleet consists of 12 vehicles who deal with on average 167 call-outs a day.
There are also at least four HSE ambulance vehicles available at any one time.