The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has apologised to an 87-year-old woman and her family after she had to wait almost four hours for a crew to arrive.
The elderly lady fell at home and was in pain and distressed during the lengthy wait.
Her family told the ‘Journal’ their mother was unable to move after the fall and they feared she had sustained an injury to her spine.
“She had spinal surgery a number of years ago and we thought she may have damaged her spine. She was in so much pain she didn’t even want anyone to touch her.”
The family phoned for an ambulance and after waiting for hours they rang back and claim they were told there was no crew available.
“Mum was getting more and more distressed and was worrying that they weren’t coming. When the paramedics did eventually arrive they were absolutely lovely and got her moved.”
Once the woman was taken to hospital, she was kept in the emergency department overnight as there were no beds available.
“It was absolute pandemonium in the A&E. There seemed to be more police officers there than hospital staff. Mum still hadn’t got a bed in a ward 14 hours later and we were told she would be transferred to a local care home to recuperate.”
A spokesperson for the Western Trust said they were unable to comment on individual patients.
However, the spokesperson said: “Like all Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland Altnagelvin Hospital’s ED continues to be very busy.
“People are seen, assessed and prioritised on the basis of individual need and staff are working very hard to ensure all patients are treated in a timely manner. Some people who attend the Emergency Department may be required to wait longer than we would like and we sincerely apologise for this.”
In a statement, the NIAS said they “would like to apologise to the patient and her carers who experienced a delay in ambulance response to their call on November 19, which was received at 17:53 with an ambulance arriving at 21:35.
“NIAS appreciates that prolonged waits can seem unacceptable to those who are waiting, and possibly in pain, and we again apologise for the delay and any upset or distress which may have been caused.
“However, it is the clinical condition of the patient which is the priority and on this occasion calls of a higher clinical priority were received in ambulance control during the time that the patient and her carers were waiting.”
The NIAS confirmed there was ‘a higher volume of calls than would normally be expected in the area on the evening in question’ but that ‘extra crews were on duty as NIAS is in the process of embedding a new Clinical Response Model.’