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263 life-threatening emergency calls had response time of at least one hour

An ambulance took at least an hour to arrive to a life-threatening emergency call more than 260 times in the first three months of this year.

More than 30 were due to the patients being suspected Covid-19 cases.

The details have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Between January and March, the National Ambulance Service got 21,510 life-threatening emergency calls.

On 263 occasions, it took more than one hour for an ambulance to arrive at the scene with 62 of the calls being in Cork.

32 of the delays were down to the patient being a suspected Covid-19 case, meaning paramedics had to take precautions, such as wear personal protective equipment.

Of all the life-threatening emergency calls, eight had response times of over two hours - in Kildare, Cork, Monaghan, Wicklow, Waterford and Dublin.

The longest was two hours and 53 minutes to an incident in Cork.

Leitrim GP Seán Bourke says long delays are common at his surgery in Ballinamore.

“We had a fractured hip last year and it took two and a half hours to get the ambulance,” he said.

“We never would get an ambulance in less than an hour.

“Possibly, occasionally you will but most of the time it’s an hour and a half.

“They could come from anywhere. They can come from Letterkenny, they can come from Longford, Roscommon.

“So there’s no back up at all.”

The National Ambulance Service says the calls of over an hour represent only 1 per cent of life-threatening emergencies during the three-month period.