The fire brigade had to be sent to attend to a patient who had suffered a heart attack because the nearest ambulance was 50 kilometres away.
The HSE’s National Ambulance Service (NAS) has confirmed that it requested Kilkee fire service in Co Clare to respond to the cardiac arrest incident at Doomore, Doonbeg on March 1st last.
The nearest ambulance, based 12 kilometres from the scene at Kilrush, was responding to another call at the time.
The next nearest available ambulance was in the Ennis area at the time, almost 50 kilometres from the emergency call.
As a result, firefighters based at Kilkee, about 8 kilometres from the scene, were requested to respond and administer emergency first aid to the elderly man.
The HSE has said that the fire brigade at Kilkee was alerted “in line with the protocols for Community First Responders which NAS operates with a number of fire services throughout the country.”
There is however no such arrangement in place with Clare County Fire and Rescue Service although a spokesman said they would respond to calls for assistance from another ‘blue light service’ if requested.
A HSE spokesman said: “The National Ambulance Service (NAS) can confirm that the National Emergency Control Centre contacted the Kilkee Fire Service. The Fire Service were tasked to this call in the Kilkee area as they have an AED (defibrillator) available to them and are trained as first responders.
The nearest available NAS resource was immediately despatched to the incident. This resource was in the Ennis area as the Kilrush ambulance was on another call at the time. Other possible resources (air ambulance) were also considered for this call,” the HSE said.
The HSE has not commented on why the the Emergency Aeromedical Service air ambulance wasn’t sent to the incident.
A Clare County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “In general, where calls for assistance are received from another blue light service such as An Garda Síochána, National Ambulance Service or Irish Coast Guard, the Fire Service will mobilise and provide whatever assistance they are appropriately trained for.”
“While it is not the statutory role of the Fire Service in Clare to provide Emergency Medical Services, by having personnel trained to such a high level has obvious benefits when the Fire Service attend at incidents where members of the public may require medical intervention.
In such instances (generally seen at road traffic incidents), Fire Service personnel in attendance are ideally suited to assist the National Ambulance Service whom provide the statutory response to medical emergencies,” the spokesman added.