An 88-year-old woman who suffered a suspected heart attack was taken to a hospital in the back of a fire engine -- because five city ambulances had trolleys tied up in A&E.
The ambulances were out of action for several hours yesterday evening because their trolleys were being used for patients in Beaumont Hospital A&E department, according to a Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) source.
And when the elderly lady became ill last night, no ambulance was available so a fire engine carrying medical equipment had to be dispatched and remained at the scene until an ambulance became free.
But fire officers decided to transport the distressed woman, who needed immediate assistance, to the Mater hospital in the back of their fire engine.
The source told the Herald: "The old woman was in a bad way, but they have defibrillators on the fire engine so they put her into her kitchen chair and transported her on a fire engine to the Mater hospital.
"They were afraid that she was going to take a turn, so they just put her on the back of the motor and took her in."
Since paramedics must wait until their vehicle's trolley is retrieved before they can return to service, the fire crew were pressed into service.
"All Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) ambulances were held up in Beaumont. When the DFB goes to Beaumont or the Mater and they haven't got a bed, the person stays on the stretcher," the source said.
Delays in retrieving trolleys are minimal in most Dublin hospitals, but the job of Dublin Fire Brigade has been massively hampered by delays at the Mater and Beaumont hospitals, according to the source.
"It's been ongoing for a number of months," he said. "It leaves resources tight. We're lucky that we can turn out fire engines instead, and every member of the crew is a qualified paramedic.
"It's been particularly difficult at Beaumont. There are five ambulances there [now]. They've been there since different times earlier today, some a few hours."
Beaumont Hospital spokes-person John Stanley confirmed to the Herald that there were backlogs and delays with ambulances from time to time.
"If we're busy, there can be delays, they are often very short but sometimes they do take longer," he said.