A terminally ill pensioner who suffered a head wound in a fall at her home had to wait 87 minutes for an ambulance.
A neighbour of 87-year old Kathleen Gilgunn, Johnny Mongey, told how he and her husband watched helplessly while they waited for the emergency services at her home in Kells.
The neighbour rang 999 after the 87-year-old woman fell while answering the front door to her home-help carer.
"She came out to answer the door to the carer, slipped and split her head off the hall table," Mr Mongey said.
"The carer, who was still outside, called out to me for help.
"It was 7.32pm when I rang 999 and then I began washing the blood from the back of Kathleen's head. The poor woman was so confused at this point.
"At 8pm, a first responder jeep arrived to check she was alright but they couldn't really do anything but wait with us for the ambulance to take her to hospital. All the while, Kathleen, who has lung cancer and Alzheimer's disease, was becoming more upset and agitated," the neighbour added. It was 8.57pm before an ambulance – dispatched from Virginia in Co Cavan – arrived.
To make matters worse, Mrs Gilgunn was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital In Drogheda, Co Louth on the day in question – Saturday, February 22 – where she lay on a trolley for two nights before getting a bed, according to Mr Mongey. She remains in hospital.
"It's an absolute joke and I'm raging that an elderly woman had to wait that long in a state of confusion and fear," the neighbour said.
"The paramedics who came after a half and hour were great but they couldn't do anything else for her but wait with us."
Mrs Gilgunn's son Jimmy described the Irish health system as "inadequate" and "putting people's lives at risk."
He said: "It took nearly 90 minutes for an ambulance to get to my mum. She had a head injury – what would have happened if she had cracked her skull open?"
Meath West Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin who is heading the new National Hospital Campaign said: "This is at least the 30th such serious incident reported to me in the last 10 months. Seven people have died in emergency situations where the ambulance was late in arriving. Peoples ability to survive is being severely reduced."
In a statement, the HSE confirmed that an emergency call was received at 7.32pm: "The nearest available resource (a rapid response vehicle with an advanced paramedic on board) was mobilised at 7.35pm and arrived on scene at 8pm. The patient was treated and stabilised at the scene by the advanced paramedic."
The statement said an ambulance was dispatched as soon as one became free.