'Our mum could have died in broke down ambulance'

By Elaine Keogh

The family of a heart attack patient whose ambulance broke down on the way to hospital, has said the paramedics "are not mechanics", and that their mother "could have died while waiting by the side of the road".

Jenny Duffy says it took more than an hour for her mum to get to hospital - a journey that, according to Google maps, should take a car about 25 minutes.

She said her mum Roseanne, who is in her sixties, is recovering in the coronary care unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda after having a cardiac arrest late on Saturday night.

Jenny said her mum became ill just after 11.20pm and another daughter, Charlene, rang for an ambulance.

One was there within minutes and they decided to bring her to the Drogheda hospital.

She believes the ambulance left just before midnight but the National Ambulance Service (NAS) says it was 12.07am.

"Forty-five minutes later I texted my sister, Charlene, who travelled in the ambulance with her, thinking they would be in the hospital. My sister said they had broken down."

The NAS confirmed that at 12.32am a warning light activated on the dashboard and the crew requested another ambulance to bring the patient to hospital.

The vehicle was pulled over, and Jenny said her family believes the engine in the vehicle failed.

She said her mum was on oxygen as she also has the respiratory complaint emphysema and, despite it being foggy out, the crew had to open the back doors of the ambulance because of the breakdown.

"The crew were on the scene straight away when mum needed them but they are paramedics, they are not mechanics and this was engine failure. My sister texted me at 1.18am to say they had arrived at the hospital."

The statement from the ambulance service said the replacement ambulance arrived at 12.55am and "left the scene with the patient at 1.02am and arrived at the hospital at 1.10am".

This means their journey from Dundalk to Drogheda took one hour and three minutes.

"If mum had another heart attack while waiting at the side of the road she could have died," Jenny added.

She contacted Louth county councillor Thomas Sharkey who said: "There is a lack of vehicles and the ones there are, are over-worked.

"It is a crisis... and management at the very top do not seem to care," he added.

Meanwhile, paramedic sources said that another vehicle is off the road in Louth after it filled with smoke on Saturday. There was no patient on board.

The NAS confirmed that this ambulance had a mechanical problem.