One person a week over the past two years has been pronounced dead by paramedics reacting to life threatening call-outs in Dungannon district, according to statistics.
That’s double the number of Category A incidents where a patient was declared dead by Northern Ireland Ambulance Service [NIAS] at the scene in Cookstown and Magherafelt, put together.
However the information, provided to the Times by NIAS has also highlighted the challenges facing the service as they struggle to meet response time targets.
On 61 per cent of the 105 call-outs NIAS responded to across Dungannon where the person was declared dead, it took longer than the eight-minute target-time for the ambulance to reach the scene.
In response to this, NIAS said “any patient declared dead at the scene by NIAS staff may have already been deceased at the time of the call” - though it is unclear how many times this happened.
In one case where a patient in Dungannon was suffering from breathing problems it took the ambulance 20 mins 4 secs to arrive, whilst on another occasion a person suffering from heart problems waited 20 mins 37 secs for help.
But at the other end of the spectrum, NIAS have delivered help in well under the target time - with paramedics reaching a patient in around two minutes in a few cases.
In response to these figures, a spokesman for NIAS has conceded that they are not reaching targets, citing challenges like “annual increases in demand on the service, inappropriate use of the service and the rural nature of some areas” as reasons.
Within the Southern Trust ambulances are required to reach 67.5% of immediately life-threatening calls [Category A] within eight minutes.
In Dungannon, this was the case on just 39% of Category A call-outs when the patient was pronounced dead at the scene after paramedics arrived.
“NIAS is facing great challenges in meeting this target for a number of reasons [and] the inability to meet this target is a major concern for the Trust and we are working with the commissioning body to resolve the issue,” the spokesman said.
“NIAS seeks to respond to every emergency call in the shortest time possible. A combination of speed of response and high levels of quality patient care are what make the difference in life and death situations [and] frontline staff have a proud record of making this difference in many situations.”