Belfast Telegraph

Family's fury after woman (93) waits 10 hours for one mile trip to Altnagelvin Hospital

By Donna Deeney

The family of a 93-year-old woman has brand ed a 10-hour wait for an ambulance as "disgraceful" and are enraged that no one from the Ambulance Service has contacted them to apologise.

Bridie Hargan lives less than a mile away from Altnagelvin Hospital at Tullyally in Londonderry but she was too frail and ill to make the short journey by car so her GP requested an ambulance.

The family was told it could take around two hours to get an ambulance there, but it was five times longer than that before one actually arrived.

Mrs Hargan, who is in the final stages of her life, remains in Altnagelvin Hospital where she has been made comfortable and her family are at her bedside.

They say their distress has been added to by the trauma of having to wait so long for an ambulance on the day she was admitted.

Mrs Hargan's daughter-in-law Maureen Hargan told the Belfast Telegraph they were still waiting to hear from the Ambulance Service almost a week after the 10-hour delay.

She said: "My mother-in-law, or granny as we call her, needed to be admitted to hospital because she was very badly dehydrated and needed to get fluids intravenously as well as her medication.

"We were told we may have to wait for about two-and-a-half hours, which was OK, but when an ambulance didn't appear my sisters-in-law rang to see what the delay was.

"They were told an ambulance had been on its way but was diverted to deal with an emergency and another one would arrive within half an hour.

"None arrived and for the next eight hours we made several calls to the Ambulance Service but no one showed up for granny until 10.30pm.

"At this stage, granny was so ill she was delirious, she was hallucinating and we were gravely worried about her.

"Eventually we rang 999 and requested an emergency ambulance and we were told granny wasn't an emergency but if a 93-year-old woman who is extremely ill isn't an emergency I can't imagine what would be."

After the ambulance eventually arrived and Mrs Hargan was transferred to hospital, the bed that had been allocated to her was no longer available. This meant she had to endure the additional trauma of a five-hour wait in the accident and emergency department. Maureen said: "Because the ambulance took so long to come, granny had to be admitted through the casualty department, but that took five hours.

"Five hours of her lying on a bed in a cubicle without the fluid or medication she was so much in need of before she was moved to the ward.

"The way she is now, the hospital have withdrawn all medication and are just keeping her comfortable and it is so sad that this is how things have ended, but it is pretty atrocious that almost a week later no one from the Ambulance Service has come to us as a family and said sorry.

"A statement issued to the Press just isn't good enough."

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said: "The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) received a GP request at 12.12 on March 20, 2015, to transport a patient from her home to Altnagelvin Hospital. NIAS was asked to pick the patient up within two hours. At 14.20 an ambulance was despatched to the address supplied, but unfortunately had to be diverted to a Category A life-threatening call instead.

"NIAS prioritises all calls received at its control centre, with the highest priority being afforded to life-threatening calls.

"NIAS regrets that an ambulance did not then become available again to pick the patient up until 22.04. The reason for the delay was the number of higher priority calls received at ambulance control.

"We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for this delay to the patient and her carers who, if they wish, can make a formal complaint by contacting the NIAS complaints manager on 028 9040 0999."

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