LETTERKENNY, Ireland -- A distressed mother was forced to drive her unconscious child to hospital because of HSE cutbacks, it has emerged.
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty blasted the fiasco yesterday as it was revealed a shortage of staff saw the mum take her 11-year-old daughter to Letterkenny General Hospital while a paramedic tended to her in the back seat.
One of the paramedics had called in sick last Tuesday, which meant the ambulance was only staffed by one professional.
When the call for help was placed, dispatchers were then forced to send out the only ambulance it could.
The deputy for Donegal South West has expressed his shock and anger at the incident.
He said: "I was outraged to hear it. It is reported that an emergency call was made for an ambulance to attend to a young child who was unconscious.
"An ambulance was dispatched with one advanced paramedic who was driving the vehicle.
"At the scene, the paramedic made the clinical decision, based on the needs of the child, to travel back to the hospital [five minutes away] in the back of a car driven by the mother of the child."
The Sinn Fein TD was tipped off about the incident after a concerned hospital worker told him what had happened.
Mr Doherty claimed that when he contacted health bosses they admitted there was only one paramedic on duty at the time.
He said: "When I sought clarification from the HSE on this matter it was confirmed the advanced paramedic was indeed working on his own from 5pm to 8pm on the day in question.
"It was explained to me that this was due to staff reporting sick and requesting force majeure leave at short notice."
Local representatives also blasted the practice in the Donegal area, where it is claimed incidents like these have happened before.
Councillor Gerry McConagle believes it is only a matter of time before something more serious happens.
He said: "We've had these shortages before and thank God the child is OK, but what would happen had that child needed the use of the equipment on the ambulance?"