Sinn Féin Leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams raised the issue of Ambulance response times for County Louth in the Dáil on Tuesday.
The Sinn Féin leader told the Taoiseach that there is “widespread concern at the response times and the risk that unnecessary delays create for patient safety. In my constituency there have been serious examples of lengthy delays, including one at the beginning of the year in which a local citizen died. “
Speaking afterward Teachta Adams said:
“According to a response I received from the Minister for Health on Ambulance provision in Louth the HSE has been implementing the HIQA response time standards since 2011. This means classifying 112/999 emergency calls by clinical status. These are defined as: ‘Clinical Status 1 ECHO calls involve life-threatening emergencies of cardiac or respiratory origin. Clinical Status 1 DELTA calls involve life-threatening emergencies of other than cardiac or respiratory origin’.
The National Ambulance Service states that it has exceeded its response times for ‘ECHO calls of 70% of patient-carrying vehicles on scene within 18 minutes 59 seconds. The DELTA response time performance was however 4% below the national target of 68%. In 2014, the targets have increased to 80% for both call types.’
This is small comfort for those who fall outside the target times. However I question a response time of 19 minutes responding to a life-threatening emergency of cardiac or respiratory origin.
There have been a number of cases in recent years in Drogheda and Navan and elsewhere where the response time was significantly less than required from our ambulance service. The death of Wayne McQuillan at the start of the year was the latest example of this and was a tragedy for his family.
In his response to me the Minister states that: ‘HIQA, as part of its Business Plan for 2014, and in line with its programme for the monitoring of the National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare, will review the governance and management arrangements of pre-hospital emergency care services to include the timely call-handling, response, assessment, diagnosis, care and transportation of the acutely ill patient to the appropriate healthcare facility. This review had been due to commence in the 2nd quarter of 2014; however, in light of a number of recent incidents, the Authority has agreed to my request to commence the review in quarter 1. I understand that the review will focus initially on the governance arrangements for the service and how those arrangements translate into the safety, quality and effectiveness of services for patients. ‘
The Minister also confirmed that the National Ambulance Service will undertake its own capacity review to determine current and future service delivery needs. This process will examine a number of areas, including staff numbers and skill mix, as well as resource distribution.
I have written to the Minister and to the National Ambulance Service asking for details of this and how quickly they expect to complete the reviews, publish the results and implement any recommendations.”
Concluding Gerry Adams said:
“Ambulance staff work very hard to provide a service but their efforts are often frustrated by the numbers of available ambulances; their location and the arrangements for the rostering of staff.
Nor she we forget that there is one paramedic to almost 4,000 people in this state while in the north and in Scotland there is one paramedic to every 1500 citizens.
This must change.”
Note to Editor: The following PQs have been submitted by Louth TD Gerry Adams.
PQs for the Minister for Health
To ask the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that an 18 minutes 59 seconds response time is adequate for dealing with Clinical Status 1 ECHO calls which involve life-threatening emergencies of cardiac or respiratory origin or Clinical Status 1 DELTA calls involve life-threatening emergencies of other than cardiac or respiratory origin.
To ask the Minister for Health to report on the progress of HIQA, as part of its Business Plan for 2014, to review the governance and management arrangements of pre-hospital emergency care services and will he make a statement on the issue?
To ask the Minister for Health to state when he expects to be able to publish HIQA’s review conclusions after it is completed at the end of Quarter 1?
To ask the Minister for Health if the National Ambulance Service has begun its own capacity review to determine current and future service delivery needs?
To ask the Minister for Health when he expects the National Ambulance Service to complete its review of current and future service delivery needs?
To ask the Minister for Health if he will publish the National Ambulance Service review when it is completed?