National Ambulance Service paramedic had to dial 999 to get help from the fire services he needed

AN ambulance worker had to dial 999 instead of using their own internal emergency channel to help a badly injured patient.

Sources claim the call to the public number was made only after an initial request to Control was not fully followed up on.

Questions about the incident were raised after it emerged that the patient – who had to be treated extra carefully because of suspected spinal injuries – did not get to hospital until more than an hour after the first 999 call was made.

It is claimed that a paramedic had asked for the fire service to be contacted for extra support but that another paramedic arrived instead, and this was not enough.

It was then that the 999 call was made for help from the Dublin Fire Brigade – and it was only when that support arrived that the patient could be taken to hospital, the sources claim.

It is highly unusual for an emergency worker on a call to dial 999, instead of simply calling their own dispatcher on their radio.

The incident happened in Bray, Co. Wicklow last Monday, June 8.

At 4.19pm, the HSE’s National Ambulance Service received a 999 call from a member of the public about a badly injured person at the base of a high harbour wall.

The HSE says the caller gave no indication that additional resources, including the fire service, would be required.

About seven minutes later, at 4.26pm, an ambulance with an advanced paramedic arrived.

The paramedic feared the patient had potential spinal injuries.

Sources say the paramedic then asked his control room to get help from the fire service but this did not happen. Instead, another paramedic was sent out, and arrived at 4.42pm.

But this meant there were only three ambulance staff at the scene, not enough to conduct a spinal roll – a method of immobilising a suspected spinal injuries patient and rotating them onto a spinal board – the source claims.

To save time, one of the paramedics then dialled 999 and asked to be put through to the fire service.

A fire engine duly arrived around eight minutes later.

The spinal roll took place and at 5.21pm – nearly an hour after the HSE’s National Ambulance Service received the first call from the member of the public – the patient was removed from the scene and finally arrived at St Vincent’s Hospital, in south Dublin, at 5.29pm.

When first approached, the day after the incident, the HSE declined to answer questions about whether or not assistance from the fire service was requested.

It also declined to comment on whether or not one of its own paramedics had dialled 999 or if the fire service had even attended the incident.

A spokesman simply confirmed that an ambulance arrived at the scene at 4.26pm and that staff requested additional resources, which arrived about 16 minutes later.

However, Wicklow County Fire Service‘s chief fire officer confirmed that assistance was not only requested but also provided.

Aidan Dempsey said: ‘Fire personnel from Bray Fire Station were alerted at 5pm on June 8 by the Eastern Regional Communications Centre at Townsend Street and responded immediately.

‘The incident type was notified as “Ambulance Assist” – which indicates that an ambulance crew requires the assistance of the fire service.

‘The message indicated that the incident was at the Bray Harbour wall and an advanced paramedic from HSE requesting assistance with log roll.’

He confirmed a fire crew was mobilised from Bray Fire Station at 5.04pm and arrived at 5.11pm. He said that the fire crew, under the direction of the HSE advanced paramedic, helped to transfer the patient to a spinal board.

When asked again, on June 10, about the incident, a HSE spokesman denied any of its crew asked for assistance from the fire service.

The spokesman said: ‘No requests were made from the crews on the scene for assistance from the fire service and the NAS has no record of a crew member contacting the fire service directly.’

But late Saturday evening, a HSE spokesperson finally admitted one of their own crew had indeed asked for assistance from the fire services and had dialled 999.

They confirmed that a rapid response vehicle with an advanced paramedic on board was ‘dispatched to the incident following a request from a crew member at the scene requesting assistance to carry out spinal mobilisation of the patient’.

They said: ‘The crew member had other options to request assistance of the fire service through the control centre such as the urgent request to speak or opening the channel and speaking directly to the dispatcher.

‘The crew member decided to ring 999 and called the fire service directly.’

The HSE declined to give the exact time the paramedic made his initial request for additional assistance and why he decided to dial 999.

The authority also declined to comment on whether or not the paramedic’s request for additional help from the crew on the ground was specifically for assistance from the fire service.

Do you have an example of where either assistance from the fire services has been made but not followed up or do you have an example where treatment was delayed because the fire services were not deployed?

Email randomirish @ in the strictest confidence with specific details – times, places etc. Be careful not to provide any information which breaches the confidentiality or privacy of any patients involved unless you are aware they are willing to give their consent.

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