AMBULANCES were unavailable to answer a woman’s desperate call for help for her dying husband, an inquest was told.
Fred Pring, 74, from Mynydd Isa, died in the early hours of March 21 last year, 40 minutes after his wife Joyce first rang 999.
Mr Pring was suffering from severe chest pains and Home Office pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers told the hearing in Ruthin that he was “a very ill man”, with serious heart and lung disease.
“One has to accept that he could have died at any time,” he said.
Mrs Pring called 999 four times and was told help was on the way but it was not until her husband had died that three ambulances arrived.
At the inquest Gill Pleming, utilisation manager for the Welsh Ambulance Services Trust, who carried out a serious incident review after Mr Pring’s death, explained 16 ambulances were on duty in Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy that night.
Six of them, however, were queuing up outside the Maelor Hospital in Wrexham – two of them were there for about five hours – and two outside Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan. Two crews were attending other incidents and six crews were on rest breaks, which were mandatory and “undisturbable”.
Miss Pleming described it as “a very, very challenging day” because of growing pressure on the service although such pressure was not uncommon.
Professor Matthew Makin, recently appointed medical director of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said the pressure had been growing over a period and an action plan instigated to free as many hospital beds as possible while ensuring that sufficient staff were on duty.
Questioned by barrister Simon Holder, representing Mrs Pring, Miss Pleming, Professor Makin and Elwyn Price-Morris, the chief executive of the ambulance trust, said control staff taking the 999 calls followed rigid “algorhythm” protocols by which the same questions were put to a caller each time, with no reference being made to the patient’s possible deterioration or the effect of delays in responding.
It was an international protocol which meant all calls were treated on merit, said Miss Pleming.
Mr Price-Morris told the hearing that a trial scheme was being run by which a consultant was available to advise the call-takers, who have no medical qualifications.
With the evidence now concluded the coroner will give his conclusions today.
The hearing continues.