Half of DFB ambulance fleet stuck at hospital due to trolley delays
Nearly half of Dublin Fire Brigade’s (DFB) fleet of ambulances were stuck at Beaumont Hospital when there were not enough trolleys for patients in the Emergency Department (ED).
At one point yesterday morning there were seven ambulances parked outside the hospital.
Some were delayed for almost two hours while the crews had to attend to patients they had brought in before they could get their stretchers back and go on another call.
There were further delays later in the day, with five ambulances spotted parked at the door at about 4pm.
The situation was branded a “disgrace” by Independent TD Finian McGrath, who said he would be raising the matter in the Dail.
Meanwhile, nursing organisation representative Lorraine Monaghan said what happened yesterday was not an isolated incident in the north Dublin area. She described it as “totally unacceptable”.
It is the second time in two weeks that a significant proportion of Dublin Fire Brigade’s 12-strong ambulance fleet has been held up outside a northside hospital.
A DFB spokesperson confirmed another incident on March 18 when six of the brigade’s ambulances were delayed at the Mater Hospital, some for more than an hour.
Beaumont Hospital last night blamed the delays experienced yesterday on “high numbers attending the ED”.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation counted 23 patients on trolleys in the ED at 8am before the delays began.
That is just over half the 42 counted on one day last month when the overcrowding crisis was at its peak.
There were delays to ambulances at the hospital of almost two hours yesterday morning.
Five DFB units were stuck there along with one from the HSE’s service and another privately operated ambulance, with some parked on the footpath at the ED entrance canopy.
The DFB vehicles were from Blanchardstown, Swords, Kilbarrack, Tara Street and Finglas, and one of them was unable to leave for an hour and 55 minutes as the crew waited for the trolley to be returned.
Another was stuck for an hour and 50 minutes and a third for just over an hour-and-a-half according to the DFB spokesperson.
While the Herald was at Beaumont, an ambulance based at Kilbarrack left at 1.15pm, but it was back again in less than half-an-hour with another patient and began to queue again.
By 2pm the situation appeared to have been resolved.
But two hours later there were further delays, with four DFB ambulances as well as one from the HSE parked at the hospital.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” the DFB spokesperson said, adding that when lengthy delays happen, fire service officers liaise with the HSE and hospital managers.
A spokeswoman for Beaumont Hospital denied that similar delays are “a regular occurrence”, but said there were a number of ambulances held up over a one to two-hour period yesterday morning.
“The ED did not close to either patients or ambulances during this time,” the spokesperson said. She added that delays happen “on occasions when the ED is particularly busy”.
“Staff at the ED always work with the relevant departments to make beds available as soon as possible,” she said.
The problem is not a new one.
In 2010, eight DFB ambulances were stranded outside the Mater Hospital one November night.
There was controversy in recent weeks when Dublin City Council announced it wants to hand over the call-taking and ambulance dispatch responsibilities of the fire brigade to the HSE’s National Ambulance Service.
This followed a report from health watchdog HIQA that was critical of some of the response times of DFB.
A DFB union hit back, with a spokesman saying 80pc of life-threatening emergency are responded to on time.