Fianna Fail Councillor Lisa Chambers has described as distressing the recent HIQA report on the country’s ambulance service. The report, which describes Mulranny, County Mayo; Tuam, County Galway and Loughglynn, County Roscommon as ‘ambulance black spots’ due to the lack of dedicated ambulance crews, highlights the major deficiencies in the country’s ambulance service, particularly in the west of Ireland.
“The report is fairly damning to say the least. It is clear from reading the report that the west of Ireland and Mayo, Galway and Roscommon in particular are worst off. This is an issue I have been highlighting for well in excess of a year and have focused on the lack of a dedicated ambulance crew in Mulranny. HIQA has described Mulranny as an’ ambulance black spot’ because there is not a full time crew there. It is certainly welcome that HIQA have highlighted this as being an issue that needs addressing.” says Chambers.
“The report outlines a number of worrying deficiencies in our national ambulance service. It describes what it considers “unsafe staffing levels” in some ambulance control centres. The report also highlights the low number of employed paramedics and the fact that they are not being replaced at the same rate they are leaving. The age of the ambulance fleet is also discussed with issues surrounding vehicles breaking down and vehicles being too old for service. It was only a few months ago that we had report of an ambulance breaking down in Castlebar, luckily it wasn’t on the way to a call but it could very well have been.” continues Chambers
“Another area touched upon that needs improving is more tactical deployment of resources. This is something we know needs addressing in Mayo, where we have had Castlebar based crews attending to calls in Galway and Roscommon crews attending to calls in Mayo. This just makes no sense and is clearly not an efficient and tactical use of resources. This kind of messing around with the limited resources we have is putting people lives at risk and we must not wait for a tragedy to happen before we take action.” says Chambers.
“HIQA makes 12 specific recommendations on how to improve our National Ambulance Service and many of the steps can be implemented within current resources, however clearly additional resources are needed if we are to being our service up to the required standard. The report suggests that the HSE and the National Ambulance Service set out a clear and detailed action plan to address these issues, with timelines to be included. The report also outlines the need to monitor progress and regularly assess the quality of the service being provided. A strategy for the employment of additional staff is required and an assessment of the ageing ambulance fleet. To address ‘ambulance black spots’ like Mulranny the report recommends the development of ‘Community First Responders’ to help tackle the problems faced by rural areas, which are vast and sparsely populated.” continues Chambers
“The report notes that ambulance calls are increasing and so demand for services will only continue to rise. This report is very clear in outlining both the problems and the solutions. Given HIQA is an independent body one hopes that Minister Varadkar will pay close attention to what they are saying and finally do something about our ambulance service. I for one won’t be happy until I see a fully manned based in Mulranny and additional supports given to our other bases in Ballina, Castlebar and Belmullet.” says Chambers