An ambulance crew recently spent their entire 12-hour shift with one patient waiting for a hospital bed instead of responding to 999 calls, a SIPTU representative has said.
he revelation comes as paramedics report significantly longer turnaround times at A&Es across the country due to severe overcrowding.
SIPTU’s ambulance sector president Greg Lyons said the crew didn’t respond to one emergency call during their shift as they waited to safely hand over a patient for 12 hours.
“One thing that was reported was that one crew spent their entire 12-hour shift in an ED with a patient, whether out in the ambulance or in the ED continuing to care for the patient prior to receiving a bed or a location in the hospital to do a handover,” Mr Lyons told RTÉ’s Drivetime.
“Once the ambulance arrives at the ED, until it is relieved and the patient handed over into the Emergency Department nursing care, they are not free or available to respond to the outstanding calls, which is the real risk for the ambulance service.
“It’s the patient that we haven’t got to that’s the risk, not the patient that’s with the crew or the hospital staff,” Mr Lyon said.
There were 489 patients on trolleys waiting for beds nationwide today, the INMO reported, a decrease on previous days.
University Hospital Limerick continues to be the most overcrowded hospital in the country and as of today, patients in the midwest can be brought directly to Ennis General Hospital for care in an attempt to ease the severe overcrowding in Limerick.
Mr Lyons said that ambulance crews are reporting handover times six times the average and longer and this has been described as the biggest issue affecting paramedics’ work.
“Now we’re at the point where three hours is normal, up to eight hours could be average”.
A “normal” turnaround is estimated around 30 minutes but could be up to an hour. This was rendering ambulances “obsolete”, Mr Lyons said, adding that paramedics are being pushed “to their limits”.
“They’re starting their shifts knowing that there are calls outstanding, knowing that their 12-hour shifts will most likely extend into, in some cases, it could be a 16 or 18-hour shift, which involves extra driving and is pushing them pretty much to their limits,” Mr Lyons said.