22 December 2005

Injured had 1-hour wait for ambulance


by Damien McCarney

BBC photo

Paramedics have described the need for an ambulance to come from Larne to the scene of Sunday’s Falls Road crash as “unacceptable”.

Two paramedics this week spoke to the Andersonstown News of their concern at the Ambulance Service’s response and have called for an inquiry into the incident.

The accident, involving two cars, resulted in the tragic deaths of 15-year-old Jamie-Lee Rooney and 22-year-old Paul McCrory, and left eight others injured. Three of the injured were described as critically ill, and two seriously ill on their arrival at the Royal Hospital.

The first ambulance arrived at the scene close to St Louise’s Comprehensive College after six minutes, followed by two more after 15 minutes. The fourth arrived 17 minutes after the crash.

A fifth, which was needed to take a person in a critically ill condition to hospital, arrived 38 minutes after the crash from Larne, which is approximately 22 miles from Belfast.

The sixth ambulance arrived after 44 minutes and the final ambulance arrived to take the remaining patients just over an hour later.

The paramedics who spoke to the Andersonstown News said this was not good enough as normally each ambulance takes only one casualty.

“It is unacceptable that a person who was later brought into intensive care should be waiting 38 minutes. They are not even three minutes from the RVH. You would like to hope that everyone would be back in hospital, all casualties removed from the scene within 30 minutes.”

A second paramedic insisted that the response to this operation generally of the Ambulance Service needed to be investigated, not just their response to this incident.

He described the transferring of ambulances from one town to another as “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“What we are calling for is an inquiry into how the ambulance service is funded and managed. What this accident does unfortunately is highlight the shortcomings of the service.

From front...

“No one seems to care apart from the front line emergency ambulance crews.”
A spokesperson for the NIAS defended their response to the accident, describing it as professional. He provided an outline of the arrival times and said, “The on-call duty officer on that night was the NIAS Emergency Planning Officer who used his experience to ensure the scene was managed in the most effective manner.
“Liaison with ambulance control and the receiving hospital ensured that patients, as they were freed from the vehicles, were transported to the most appropriate facility.
“The ambulance crews at the scene performed their duties in the most professional and caring manner possible and to the highest standards of clinical excellence.
“The thoughts of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, at this time, are with the families of those whose lives were lost in this incident. We would also like to wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.”

Timeline of events:

g 01.56 Crash reported
g 02.02 Crew from RVH arrive at crash first (6 mins later)
g 02.04 This crew contact base saying 8 patients were on scene and needed more appliances (8 mins later)
g 02.11 Second crew arrived having been on the M2 returning to their base in Whiteabbey (15 mins later)
* 02.11 Third crew arrive (15 mins later)
* 02.13 Fourth crew arrive from Mater hospital (17 mins later)
* 02.34 Fifth crew arrive from Larne (38 mins later)
* 02.40 Sixth crew arrive from Belfast (44 mins later)
* 02.57 Final crew arrive for remaining patients (1hr 1min later).

Journalist:: Damien McCarney

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