Belfast parents forced to drive 'lifeless' baby to hospital after ambulance fails to turn up
An east Belfast family were forced to rush their "lifeless" three-month-old son to hospital for life-saving surgery after an ambulance was re-tasked to another 999 call.
Matty Simpson, from Braniel, told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday how his son Franklin, who has cystic fibrosis, became critically ill on Friday evening.
Mr Simpson (31) rushed home after the taxi driver received a call from his frantic wife Chelsea (28) at around 8.25pm after Franklin - who has a stoma fitted due to having cystic fibrosis - woke up "screaming his head off".
"One of the bowels fell right out. When he was screaming my wife thought it was maybe a clip of the bag was hurting him but when she saw it the bowel was exposed," he said.
He explained that when his wife phoned for an ambulance around 8.30pm, she was told a crew was "five minutes away".
However, after a 40-minute wait for paramedics, they called 999 again, and were informed the crew had been tasked to another emergency call, forcing the parents to drive their ill son, who was at that stage "lifeless", to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
Last night the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) issued an apology to the parents.
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During their wait for an ambulance, the couple had phoned cystic fibrosis specialists who advised that Franklin needed an ambulance to travel safely to hospital.
"Because the way he was, he went from crying to being very limp and his colour drained. They were worried about his breathing, because that has always been an issue," said Mr Simpson.
"So we thought (an ambulance) would be the safest way to travel to hospital. I got here from Bangor within about 15 minutes.
"It seemed like an age, we were waiting around 40 minutes (for the paramedics).
We rang 999 back and the dispatch said the ambulance had to stand down to go to another call. Matty Simpson
"If they had rang us and told us - there was a lot of time wasted - we could have made the decision to take him ourselves earlier if we had no other choice but to go to the hospital.
"It was a case of putting Franklin in the back of the car in my wife's arms."
Mr Simpson explained that on arrival, surgeons were waiting for Franklin.
"How is that not a high priority case, regardless of what else is going on?" he said.
"Not even to tell us that the ambulance was away to another call, we were just left in the lurch not knowing what to do.
"How long were we going to wait? We had no information from 999, they just said they didn't know when another crew was going to be available from telling us a crew was five minutes away.
To get to the hospital, it was a shock to us. They told us he was in critical condition. We sat and waited for him in surgery for about five hours not knowing if he is going to come out of it. Matty Simpson
Franklin is now recovering after having 30cm of his bowel removed during emergency surgery.
The Simpson family have lodged a complaint with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) in a bid to get answers as to why Franklin was not treated as a priority call.
In response, a spokesperson said: "NIAS would take this opportunity to apologise to the patient and the patient's parents for any distress caused."
They explained the call was categorised based on the information provided as "serious but not immediately life threatening" and a crew was dispatched, which was diverted just before 9pm due to a "higher priority call". "Ambulance Control would then have despatched the next available ambulance to the original call," the spokesperson said.
The NIAS spokesperson stressed they would be happy to speak directly to the Simpson family, adding the organisation is addressing increased demand with a new clinical response model, aimed at improving services, on November 12.