SERIOUS warnings have been made about the outcome for patients as an entire fleet of Limerick ambulances, plus some from Clare and Tipperary, was at one stage waiting outside the Emergency Department on the University Hospital in Limerick this week.
The ambulances were held up waiting to hand patients over to hospital staff and a source in the health service revealed that large areas were without ambulance cover on the night for a significant period of time.
The HSE source told the Limerick Post that ambulances can wait for more than two hours just to hand a patient over: “With no relief for A&E staff or ambulance crews this situation is coming to a head. Eight ambulances were held up last night. That’s all of Limerick’s ambulances and a large chunk of Clare and north Tipperarys vehicles, leaving vast areas uncovered. If someone had a cardiac arrest, the chances are they would not recover”.
In reply to a query from the Limerick Post, the HSE said that this is traditionally a busy period and with a flu virus circulating, many of the patients who end up in the ED are there because of it.
“In the Mid West area the National Ambulance Service has 16 Emergency Vehicles available and five intermediate care vehicles which are used to transport patients to hospital from other hospitals and nursing homes etc.
“At Limerick University Hospital during the month of December 2013 the average ambulance wait time was 31 mins and in January 2014 the average time was 26 mins. On occasions there are spikes in admissions and ambulances can take longer times to clear the emergency department. The ambulance service is working closely with the hospital to manage these issues and to reduce any delays”.