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serious failings National Ambulance Service apologises to family of deceased teen over response delay

An investigation by the NAS uncovered a number of failings and breaches of protocol

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The late Darren Gaughan.

The late Darren Gaughan.

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The late Darren Gaughan.

THE National Ambulance Service (NAS) has apologised to the family of a deceased diabetic boy over the delay in responding to an emergency call after he became seriously unwell.

Thirty-one minutes after it was called on October 28, 2010, an ambulance arrived at the house in Limerick city where 17-year-old Darren Gaughan was staying with friends.

An autopsy report stated he died at the house, shortly after paramedics arrived, from acute cardio-respiratory failure secondary to hyperglycaemia and ketoacidosis.

An investigation by the NAS later found serious failings in relation to the ambulance response to the call.

An apology from the NAS over those failings was read in the High Court yesterday. The apology was made under a settlement of a civil action brought by Mr Gaughan’s family against the HSE arising from his death. A €285,000 payment is also part of the settlement.

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Darren’s parents, Leo and Kathleen, and siblings were in court. Kathleen held a framed photograph of her son.

The judge said he hoped the apology would give some comfort to the family. He offered sincere sympathy “for the loss of a young man at the start of his adult life in tragic and unnecessary circumstances”.

Darren, from Killure, Aclare, Co Sligo, was diagnosed with diabetes aged 10 but his family said he continued to live a normal and active life. He had started a degree course in renewable energy at Limerick IT in September 2010.

He became ill on October 27, 2010, while staying with friends on the University of Limerick campus. When he was still unwell the next day, his friends called Darren’s father in Co Sligo, who told them to immediately call an ambulance.

Am ambulance was called at 1.21pm. During the call, it was indicated that Darren was diabetic and needed urgent assistance because he was unresponsive.

The ambulance arrived at 1.52pm and paramedics began to administer treatment. The ambulance left at 2.09pm and arrived at St John’s Hospital in Limerick, where Darren was pronounced dead.

In spring 2014, the family were told that, as a result of a complaint by an anonymous person to the HSE about the emergency response in relation to Darren, an investigation was being carried out by the NAS.

The investigation report, released to the family in April 2016, found a number of failings and breaches of protocol in relation to the ambulance response on the day. These included, despite the assigned “urgent” or “Charlie” code, the fact that the ambulance did not arrive for 31 minutes.

When the crew was called, they had been in the middle of collecting some forms at Roxboro Road garda station in Limerick and, instead of proceeding immediately, as per the “Charlie” code, they finished up what they were doing, which led to a three-minute delay, the report said.

The 6km distance from Roxboro Road to Thomond Village could reasonably be expected to take 15 minutes but it took the ambulance 31 minutes, from the time of the call, to arrive at the scene.

The investigation was also unable to establish why there was a 10-minute delay before a roundabout en route to the college accommodation.

The report also referred to failures in communication protocols, including the dispatcher contacting the ambulance crew on their mobile phones instead of the approved ambulance radio system.

The dispatcher also terminated the emergency call with the person who was next to Darren, instead of keeping them on the line, as is required. The report made recommendations aimed at avoiding any similar incident.

In its apology to the Gaughan family, the NAS, through chief ambulance officer Bill Forbes, offered sincere condolence and apologies for the distress and upset caused by Darren’s death.


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