Campaigners say case highlights dire need for better services in Connemara area
A BABY girl who was born in the back of a car had to wait nearly three hours to reach Mayo University Hospital by ambulance.
On February 24, Peter Gannon was driving his wife, Kelly, from their home in Clifden to Mayo University Hospital when her waters broke at Cleggan Cross.
Mr Gannon called an ambulance at 6.17pm and was advised to pull in 9km further up the road, towards Castlebar at Letterfrack Garda station. Baby Cara was delivered in the car at 6.41pm.
The ambulance arrived at 7.25pm, some 44 minutes after delivery, and 1 hour and 8 minutes after the initial 999 call.
The mother and baby arrived at Mayo University Hospital at 9pm, some 2 hours and 43 minutes after the initial 999 call.
Mr Gannon was told after the ambulance arrived that it had from the Swinford side of Castlebar, as the nearby Clifden ambulance was in Galway.
Just before baby Cara was delivered, the couple were told the ambulance was driving through Westport.
Mr Gannon said: “Knowing the ambulance was so far away heightened the stress and anxiety in what was an already frantic situation.”
He added: “During the 44 minutes between the delivery and the ambulances arrival, the umbilical chord could not be cut, and this caused complications that led to mother and baby staying in hospital for two extra nights and Cara being admitted to the special care unit. There would of course be a cost to the taxpayer for this care.
“Aside from the above complications, a shorter wait time between delivery and ambulance arrival would also have lowered the risk of infection, exposure to low temperature and stress and anxiety of all concerned.”
Nevertheless, Mr Gannon praised the ambulance and hospital staff, saying: “We are very appreciative of the wonderful care received from the paramedics and the staff at Mayo General Hospital.”
Connemara ambulance crisis
THE Connemara Ambulance Crisis Group has strongly criticised the ‘traumatic ordeal’ experienced by the Gannon family. The group was set up in 2014 to campaign for better ambulance services in the Connemara area.
The group stated: “For the last seven years the Connemara Ambulance Crisis Group have been fighting for an adequate ambulance service for our community. Over the years we have witnessed delays of over three hours waiting for an ambulance from call out time to time of arrival at patient.”
Citing the aforementioned incident, it said: “As the Clifden ambulance was out on call elsewhere, Connemara was left without any cover whatsoever, as is frequently the case.”
It added: “For several years now (since 2014) we have campaigned to secure what is a basic human right for the people of Connemara and for all who visit there.
“Despite numerous Meetings with two Ministers for Health, several TDs, the HSE, the National Ambulance Service, and having raised the issue at not only Government level but also in the European Parliament, there is still no improvement in the service for the people of Connemara who can still be left without any ambulance cover, as evident from the recent case.”
In June 2019 the Crisis Group attended a meeting with Galway West TDs at Peacock’s in Maam Cross to discuss the use of a deployment base at the hotel.
They were advised that the Area Operations Manager of the National Ambulance Service had approved the site for use. It was hoped that negotiations with the HSE to sign off on the proposal would be complete by the end of 2019.
The group stated that: “When Mairéad Farrell TD contacted the Office of the Director of the National Ambulance Service recently on this issue, this was the reply she received on March 2, 2021:
‘While a meeting took place in April 2019 in relation to the possibility of locating a Deployment Point at Maam Cross, the owner of the proposed site indicated that a planning application had been made and therefore they would not be in a position to assist. In addition, there was no commitment given by the National Ambulance Service to allocate additional service development resources to the area of Connemara’.”
The group say that the owner of the proposed site had, in fact, been contacted and had agreed to facilitate the HSE with a site for use as an ambulance deployment centre in Connemara.
The Crisis Group added that they ‘have only recently discovered’ that the National Ambulance Service stated at a Western Health Forum in June 2019 that ‘they had no plans at present to introduce additional resources into Connemara’.