A woman waited in agony for almost two hours for an ambulance to travel 120 kilometres (kms) from another county to take her another 80 kms to hospital after she broke her leg in a fall.
It has emerged that an ambulance was sent from Nenagh, Co Tipperary to the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare because no other ambulance was available in the region.
The woman had been walking along a path south of the Cliffs of Moher on Saturday December 6th when she suffered a fall at around 1.25pm.
An 999 emergency call was was made and transferred to the National Ambulance Service (NAS) at 1.36pm however there was no ambulance available in Clare because they were tied up with other calls.
On the day in question, visibility in the area was too poor for the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) air ambulance or Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters to land.
The Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard was alerted and dispatched to recover the injured woman and made their way to the scene which was not accessible by vehicles.
They located the casualty, assessed and stabilised her, before taking her by stretcher back to the Cliffs of Moher visiter centre to wait for an ambulance.
The nearest ambulance base to the Cliffs of Moher is 16km’s away at Ennistymon while Ennis station is located 40km’s away. Another ambulance is based at Kilrush, 50km’s from the scene, while the only other Clare based ambulance, at Scarriff in east Clare, is 80km’s from the the Cliffs.
However, an ambulance was sent almost 120 kilometres from Nenagh in Co Tipperary arriving at the scene at 3.14pm.
After taking the patient into their care paramedics then had to drive another 80 kilometres to University Hospital Limerick arriving almost three hours after the woman fell.
A HSE spokesman said: “The National Ambulance Service (NAS) can confirm an emergency call was received for the Cliffs of Moher area on December 6th at 13:36. At the time the call was received other resources in the area were engaged on other emergency calls. The nearest available resource was dispatched to the incident and arrived at the scene at 15:14.”
One Clare based paramedic said: “Sure, if we spend most of our time answering calls in Limerick how can anyone expect there to be an ambulance available to cover Clare. We are called and sent to calls and we never know where we’ll be going.”
“Clare is regularly left without a single ambulance in the entire county because we are either held up at A&E in Limerick, sometimes for hours, or we are answering other calls, more often outside our own county.
If this was a heart attack or stroke patient or someone with more serious injuries, I would hate to think how this would have turned out,” he added.
In November of last year (2013), an ambulance was sent over 100kms from Tuam in Co Galway to Lissycasey Co Clare to an incident where three cyclists were knocked down by a car.