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CUH slowest in country to turn around ambulances

Thursday, 16th March, 2017 1:01am

CUH was the slowest hospital in the country for ambulance turnaround, where the average time was over double the official target time of 20 minutes, or less.

Cork’s largest hospital had the longest average delay for ambulances in January 2016 and was the worst performing hospital in terms of hitting official targets for ambulance turnaround times in that month, it was revealed yesterday.

Nationally, ambulances had to wait over an hour to transfer patients on more than 1,500 occasions in the same month.

Of 1,274 total calls in January 2016 at CUH, only 11 per cent were cleared at the hospital in 20 minutes or less. The average wait time at the hospital was 41 minutes 53 seconds, the longest in the country. Over 14 per cent of ambulance callouts at the hospital took more than an hour to turnaround.

One ambulance had to wait between five to six hours to hand their patient to the CUH emergency department, get their trolley back and be available to respond to calls again.

Nationally, just five of 34 hospitals hit the official targets for ambulance turnaround times.

The Mercy Hospital had an average turnaround of just over 30 minutes, while Bantry Hospital had an average turnaround of just over 26 minutes in January, according to official HSE figures. They handled 546 and 127 calls respectively.

Recently, fears have been expressed by people in East Cork, a large area which is served by just one ambulance in Youghal and one rapid response unit.

Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher said Health Minister Simon Harris must address the missed ambulance targets and come up with a plan of action to tackle the situation.

“It’s a matter of grave concern that our major hospitals are failing to meet importance ambulance target times.

“This speaks volumes about the management of our health service and has serious consequences for patients,” said Deputy Kelleher. “Just five hospitals met the 20 minute target – and that was only in half of all callouts. None of the other 31 hospitals had a success rate of more than 49 per cent for the 20-minute turnaround.”

He described as “shocking” the fact that one in eight ambulance discharges in CUH took an hour to two hours, with 154 waiting over an hour.

Deputy Kelleher drew attention to the emergency department (ED) figures for CUH in January as a possible reason for the ambulance delays.

“Clearly these figures are symptomatic of wider problems in our hospitals. It’s notable that the worst performers in terms of reaching the 20 minute target – Cork and Galway – also experienced significant ED overcrowding during January.

“Missing turnaround targets has further consequences for the ambulance service as it makes it harder to respond to new call outs in the target time if paramedics are delayed at hospitals,” he added.

The figures were provided to Deputy Kelleher by the HSE.

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