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Newry woman who died waiting for ambulance from Belfast named as Jody Keenan (39)

Her cousin Aoife said said Jody’s mother had tried to save her by performing CPR as they waited on an ambulance

Jody Keenan

Lisa Smyth

A woman who died in Newry while waiting for an ambulance to come from Belfast had a “heart of gold”, friends have said.

She was Jody Keenan (39) who was from the Newry area.

Her cousin Aoife Finnegan said she was "loved very much”. She said Jody’s mother had tried to save her life by performing CPR as they waited on an ambulance.

Friends also paid tribute on social media to a “beautiful and kind hearted girl” who had “a heart of gold”.

Her funeral will take place on Wednesday.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has “apologised sincerely”. A spokesperson said they offered their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ms Keenan.

A spokesperson said an ambulance arrived at the scene from Banbridge shortly after 4am on Sunday – 48 minutes after the 999 call was made. The ambulance from Belfast arrived at 4.15am.

NIAS has launched a Serious Adverse Incident review into the incident.

Ms Keenan is understood to have collapsed in the early hours of Sunday while out with friends. She died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive from Belfast.

There had been a shortage of crews in the Southern division.

Only two crews were working in the area, which covers the likes of Kilkeel, Dungannon and Craigavon, on Saturday night when Ms Keenan fell ill.

NIAS has said the planned level of resource to cover the area on Saturday night was 10 crews. However, only three crews were working at the beginning of the shift and this reduced to two throughout the night as a result of illness.

The two remaining crews were waiting to hand over patients at the emergency department at Craigavon Area Hospital when the patient fell ill in Newry, meaning an ambulance had to be diverted from Belfast, which is 45 minutes away.

This afternoon NIAS said: “We recognise how difficult a time this will be for the family and we will be seeking to engage with them directly in the coming days.

“NIAS is aware of media reports about the response to this patient coming from Belfast and would wish to clarify the position.

“A 999 call was received at 3.15am on Sunday. Two ambulances were dispatched to this patient.

"The first was dispatched from Belfast and arrived on scene at 4.15am. A second ambulance was dispatched from Banbridge, arriving on scene at 4:03am. In addition, following our protocols for calls of this nature we contacted the PSNI who sent officers with a defibrillator who were first to arrive at 3.52am.

“Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, attempts to resuscitate the patient were unsuccessful.

“NIAS will be carrying out a Serious Incident Review into what happened.”

A spokesperson added: “NIAS exists to help people when they need and when our help falls short, we all feel it very personally and deeply. However we recognise that does not compare to the loss being felt by those closest to the patient.”

Tributes have been paid to Ms Keenan.

Her cousin Aoife Finnegan told Belfast Live that Jody’s mother had tried to save her life by performing CPR with a call handler.

St Paul’s High School in Bessbrook said: “We are deeply saddened about the sudden death of our esteemed colleague, Jody Keenan, who was a Teaching Assistant in St Paul’s for many years.

“Jody’s colleagues gathered today to say the Rosary and remember her, and her family, in our prayers. May she rest in peace.”

Another said: “So heartbreaking, Rest in peace Jody Keenan.”

One paramedic, speaking generally, explained the difficulties that crews face.

“Your heart sinks when you’re on in Belfast and you get a call to a category one call in Southern division,” they said.

“The whole way down you know the outcome isn’t going to be good, this is someone who is in cardiac arrest or some other time-critical condition and you’re a good 45 minutes away.

“It’s very distressing for everyone and as a caring profession you really do beat yourself up when the patient comes to harm.

“Everyone who was working on Saturday night will be feeling it today, from the paramedics to the staff in the hospital.

“They’ll be wondering if they had worked a bit quicker would that patient have survived, it’s a terrible situation to be in.”

The incident, which was first reported by the BBC, has raised further concern over the safety implications of the temporary pause of emergency general surgery at Daisy Hill Hospital.

In February, the Southern Trust suspended emergency general surgery at the hospital in Newry due to a shortage of surgeons.

Under the new system, a protocol was put in place with NIAS that enables paramedics to bypass the ED at Daisy Hill Hospital and go directly to Craigavon.

For those patients who attend Daisy Hill and who subsequently require emergency surgery, they are transferred to Craigavon Area Hospital for their operation.

At the time, health bosses gave a reassurance there would be adequate ambulance cover to ensure the new system could operate safely.

However, the NIAS paramedic said: “I would ask the bosses where they are getting the crews to transfer patients from Daisy Hill to Craigavon.

“What happened at the weekend is terrible but it’s not surprising given the staffing issues.”

Last month, it was revealed paramedics in Northern Ireland were delayed getting to the most critically ill patients 5,628 times last year.

Category one calls are those considered to be immediately life-threatening, such as cardiac arrest, drowning, or major blood loss, and the target time to attend is eight minutes.

However, figures released by NIAS revealed the potentially life-saving target was missed in more than half of category one calls last year.

The longest wait endured by a category one patient in 2021 was one hour and nine minutes.

The figures were released in a response to a Freedom of Information request.

At the time, NIAS said it was not possible to say how many patients who endured a delayed response died before an ambulance reached them.

However, last week bosses from the ambulance trust said delays could have been a contributing factor in the deaths of 14 people in Northern Ireland in the past year.

While NIAS chief executive Michael Bloomfield said it was “impossible” to make a direct link with the deaths, he said the delays may have placed the patients at increased risk.

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