UHG ambulance times are worst in the country

Turnaround times...ambulances at the Emergency Department in UHG.

University Hospital Galway (UHG) has the worst ambulance turnaround times of any hospital in the country, shock statistics confirm.

Ambulances spent over 800 hours delayed at UHG’s Emergency Department in May while waiting to hand over patients for treatment.

Overcrowding at the city hospital resulted in the vast majority of paramedic crews who arrived at UHG having to wait longer than the HSE’s recommended 20 minutes ambulance turnaround time target.

This is the time in which ambulances hand-over patients, get their trolleys back and return to responding to emergency calls.

Of the 1,018 ambulance callouts in May, just 68 – representing 6.7% of the total – were turned around in the 20-minutes target.

The average turnaround time at UHG is over 47 minutes, which is the worst in the country, according to the figures released to Fianna Fáil Galway East TD, Anne Rabbitte.

For comparison, the average turnaround times for Dublin’s big hospitals the Mater and St James was 28 minutes and 27 minutes respectively, while Tallaght had average times of almost 26 minutes.

In almost one in five cases – 109 callouts representing 19% of the total – ambulances were waiting to ‘clear’ at UHG for between one and two hours.

In six instances, the ambulance was waiting up to four hours, while in 17 instances the turnaround time was two to three hours.

Most (802 or 79%) of UHG callouts had turnaround times of between 30 minutes and an hour.

The average time spent by ambulances at Portiuncula Hospital was marginally better than UHG, at over 37 minutes.

However, just 48 of the 379 callouts in May at the Ballinasloe hospital made the HSE’s target times of 20 minutes. Some 154 (40%) were turned around in 20 or 30 minutes; while 337 (89%) were cleared in 30-60 minutes.

Some 42 patients (11%) had to wait between one and two hours to be admitted to Portiuncula. In total, ambulances spent 238 hours delayed at Portiuncula.

Deputy Rabbitte said there needs to be urgent improvement in ambulance turnaround times at UHG to give patients confidence in the system.

“The fact that fewer than 7% of ambulances attending UHG are meeting best practice targets is very worrying. The fact that it ranks as the worst hospital in the country for these delays is a matter of grave concern.

“For every minute that an ambulance is delayed at the hospital, it means it is unavailable for calls across the city and county.  These targets are there for a reason – to ensure patient safety – and serious efforts must be made to improve these turnaround times,” she said.

Deputy Rabbitte blamed “chronic overcrowding” at the Emergency Department, which is contributing to delays.

She pointed out that at UHG, in more than 21% – or 216 out of 1,018 – of cases, ambulances were waiting over an hour before patients were handed to Emergency Department staff. “This is simply not sustainable in the long term,” she insisted.

Deputy Rabbitte urged Health Minister Simon Harris to work with the National Ambulance Service and the Saolta Hospital Group to identify why these targets are not being met, “and to put in place implementation and oversight mechanisms to ensure that they are improved into the future”.

Meanwhile, separate figures reveal Galway University Hospital – UHG and Merlin Park – has the biggest inpatient day case and outpatient waiting lists in the country, with over 50,500 patients waiting.

That includes 38,501 patients waiting to be seen at outpatients, plus 12,065 waiting for an inpatient or day case procedure. Nationally, there are a total of 686,997 patients waiting for treatment, with the longest lists for Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), orthopaedics and dermatology.