By Paul McElwee
THE Ambulance Service has apologised after a woman who collapsed at a church in Aghyaran was forced to wait nearly an hour-a-half for a response to the 999 call.
The incident happened while the woman was attending a funeral at Termonamongan Chapel. She collapsed at the altar and the church was cleared of mourners while a doctor at the funeral helped to treat her as they waited for an ambulance.
The 999 call was made at 2.37pm, but an ambulance did not arrive until 3.54pm.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has admitted the delay in getting medical assistance to the woman was unacceptable.
A spokesperson for NIAS said, “We would like to offer a sincere apology to the patient for this unacceptable delay. Unfortunately, all ambulances in the area were engaged on other calls at that time.”
They explained the emergency call was made at 2.37pm, yet an ambulance was not dispatched until 3.26pm, and took almost 30 minutes to reach its destination in Aghyaran at 3.54pm.
The Ambulance Service said several factors contributed to the delay including, an increase in the need for ambulances without the staff increases to cover it; a seasonal reduction in staff sickness due to Covid and other illnesses; and pressure from other Trusts.
Sinn Féin councillor Kieran Maguire, who was in attendance at the funeral, welcomed the apology from the Ambulance Service.
He said, “I agree that the delay was wholly unacceptable, and I welcome NIAS acknowledging the fact.”
He added, “This is the first time NIAS have recognised there is a problem getting access to these services in this area and I welcome it has finally been realised. There must be resources ploughed into the emergency services for the Castlederg and Aghyaran area.
Cllr Maguire explained he was not blaming the staff on the ground for the problem, saying the issues went ‘higher up’.
“I do find it incredulous that the health service has not got the measures in place to ensure that illness or holidays don’t impact on the essential service they are providing. I will be writing to the Minister to find out what he is going to do about the obvious shortfall which has led to limited access to emergency services in this area.”