Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibín has said that lives are being put at risk by an ambulance service that is understaffed, under pressure and unable to provide adequate services.
Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders Questions, Peadar Tóibín saidthere is deep and widespread public concern at the crisis in ambulance services as exposed most graphically in a recent RTÉ Prime Time investigation.
Deputy Toibín said:
“The ambulance service in this state is clearly understaffed, under pressure and unable to provide adequate services.
“In 2008 there were 320 ambulances serving the state. Last year this dropped to 265 ambulances. At night that figure drops to a mere 113. 14,500 shift hours were dropped in 2013, 21,000 hours were dropped in 2012.
“This state has now half the paramedics per capita compared to the north of Ireland and half that of Scotland. The direct result of this is ambulance arrival times to life and death emergencies in this state being twice as slow to comparable areas such as Cumbria and the Western Isles.
“Ambulance staff now regularly operate on their own, despite having been trained to work within a team. This leads to poor outcomes for patients and injury for staff. So stretched are the ambulance that Gardaí have been despatched to emergencies ascertain whether an ambulance is necessary.
“A Garda, who may have received First aid training in Templemore 20 years ago has to make a clinical life and death decision on whether or not to bring the patient to hospital himself.
“In that last 12 months I have received 35 reports from my own county indicating ambulance arrival times for serious emergencies being late. Forty minutes wait are common. 85 minutes wait not uncommon. On seven occasions the patient died.”
He asked Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin if he thought it was acceptable that a person could be left dying on the road for up to an hour before an ambulance arrived, adding that the government’s Health cuts had led directly to this unacceptable situation.
The Meath West TD later pointed to the fact thatthe RTE Prime Time investigation also indicated that despite the life-threatening absence of available ambulances, senior management were using fully kitted out, rapid response vehicles as their own personal transport.
“We saw how people were dying for the lack of ambulances while at the same time a fleet of these €100,000 vehicles were parked for weeks outside the homes of senior management personnel. What’s more, the citizen was on the hook for the fuel used for personal use.
“Taxpayers money - designed to save lives, is being syphoned off to blue light senior management on their way home. This is yet another shocking example of toxic ‘entitlement culture’ which was rife under the previous Fianna Fáil administration and which this Government promised to root out.
“It is the scandalous, corrupt political culture which we have seen exposed in organisations such as the CRC and in Rehab.”
He said it highlighted gross mismanagement within the National Ambulance Service.