Heart attack victim in N4 ambulance switch

Seamus Gettings at home in Newtownforbes, where he is recovering from his recent heart attack. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
A seriously ill Longford man travelling to Dublin had to switch ambulances after the original vehicle started to lose power on the road outside Mullingar.

A seriously ill Longford man travelling to Dublin had to switch ambulances after the original vehicle started to lose power on the road outside Mullingar.

Seamus Gettings from Newtownforbes was being brought to Dublin by ambulance after having a heart attack on the morning of March 18.

However, just outside Mullingar, the emergency vehicle began to experience difficulties and Mr Gettings was shocked to be told he would be transferring to another ambulance.

The Longford man was swiftly moved to a new ambulance and taken to St James’ Hospital in Dublin where he underwent emergency treatment.

“The ambulance crew were fantastic, they did a magnificent job but no thanks to the equipment that they were supplied with,” Mr Gettings told the Longford Leader this week.

He contacted the paper after reading last week’s story in the Longford Leader about a critically ill Longford woman who waited 90 minutes for an ambulance to bring her from casualty in St Joseph’s Care Centre to the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar.

“When I seen that article, I thought how lucky I was because 90 minutes is too long to wait when you’re having a heart attack,” Mr Gettings said.

Mr Gettings explained that he was being treated for a hiatus hernia so when he began to experience some pain on the morning of March 18, he didn’t think too much of it at first.

He soon realised, though, that he needed to go to the doctor and upon arrival at the surgery he was told he was having a heart attack and needed to get emergency treatment.

Initially the air ambulance was sought but since it was unavailable, an ambulance was dispatched.

The ambulance arrived within minutes and the journey to Dublin commenced. On the way, it became clear there was a problem with the ambulance and he had to transfer to a new ambulance on the side of the road outside Mullingar.

“Had there not been another ambulance I mightn’t be here,” Mr Gettings said, adding that the ambulance staff were “really concerned, you could see it”.

“They were absolutely fantastic but how dare the health board put people under that pressure,” he said.

In the end, he got to St James’ in “brilliant time” and is wholehearted in his praise for the care he received in the hospital there.

“Everyone I dealt with, from the doctor, the ambulance staff, the nurses, and the doctors in St James’, I couldn’t say one bad thing about the staff at all but they must have the equipment to work with,” he said.

Last week, the Longford Leader reported on how a critically ill Longford woman waited over 90 minutes for an ambulance transfer to Mullingar and then waited over three hours to see a doctor there. When transferred to Beaumont Hospital, she was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and subsequently underwent emergency surgery.

“I see that article in the paper and I thought somebody is going to die,” Mr Gettings said, adding that he was speaking out because he feels the people who work in the health service “need all the help they can get.”

The Longford Leader contacted the HSE in relation to the issue and the organisation issued a statement on Monday on behalf of the National Ambulance Service.

“The National Ambulance Service can confirm that an emergency ambulance experienced a loss of power while transporting a patient to St James’ Hospital, Dublin, from the Longford town area, on Wednesday 18th March at 13.40hrs.

“The crew advised ambulance control and an emergency ambulance was immediately dispatched to assist. The ambulance continued towards Dublin and transferred the patient to the second ambulance at 14.00hrs.

“The patient continued the journey to St James’ Hospital at 14.06hrs and arrived at the hospital at 14.42hrs.”

Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Denis Naughten highlighted the fact that nearly one fifth of emergency ambulances have covered over 400,000 kilometres each and are therefore at risk of breaking down.

Deputy Naughten explained that the country’s ambulances have travelled many more kilometres since then but he pointed out that ambulances can officially clock up to 600,000km.

“Ambulance breakdowns are far too common,” he said.

He added that it is difficult to ascertain how many miles an ambulance has run up as it has emerged that the odometer may not be changed when the engines get changed.

The TD, who has carried out extensive research on the ambulance service, says that currently the Midlands area is the best performer in terms of ambulance arrival times.

“Consistently, the area has been the best performing area in the country, other regions around the Midlands are not resourced as well,” he stated.

However, he believes the local service could worsen as the Midlands area comes under the umbrella of the National Ambulance Service.

Longford TD James Bannon told the Leader that he has tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health highlighting transportation issues in Longford and Westmeath for patients going to Dublin. This question has been forwarded to the HSE and he is awaiting a response.