Belfast Telegraph

Fury at ambulance fiasco: Man (86) had to make own way 60 miles for serious op

By Adrian Rutherford

An 86-year-old man needing urgent surgery was told to make his own way between two hospitals 60 miles apart – because an ambulance wasn't available.

The pensioner had to get relatives to drive him from Enniskillen to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry where he was due to undergo a serious operation.

The Ambulance Service has apologised and launched an investigation into the incident, which occurred earlier this week.

It is understood the man, who is from Fivemiletown in Co Tyrone, became unwell at home last Saturday.

He was taken to hospital in Enniskillen by ambulance suffering from extreme pain.

On Tuesday the man was told he would undergo surgery at Altnagelvin Hospital the following day.

However, staff in Enniskillen were unable to arrange for an ambulance to transfer him on the 60-mile journey, and he was told he would have to make his own arrangements to get to Altnagelvin.

His elderly wife, who doesn't drive, was contacted and had to make frantic, last-minute arrangements with relatives.

Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Lord Morrow, who is investigating the case, branded it "a fiasco". "Patients, particularly elderly persons, should not be put in a position where they have to arrange their own transport between hospitals," he said.

"Just imagine the circumstances of two elderly people, one of whom is weak, in pain and requiring surgery, the other beside herself with worry and put under tremendously undue stress, having to arrange their own transport to ensure important surgery is able to proceed."

Lord Morrow said he spent two days phoning various numbers for the Ambulance Service but was unable to make contact.

He was eventually contacted on Thursday night by staff who have assured him the incident will be investigated.

"If the experience of this elderly couple and the careless lack of response by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is anything to go by then an urgent overhaul in required in both management and delivery of service," he added.

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service apologised for the incident, saying the patient's experience does not reflect the service which it seeks to provide.

"We will contact Lord Morrow directly to investigate and address this matter with both himself and the patient.

"We would apologise to the patient and the family for any distress or anxiety caused."

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