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Ambulance Service Cuts will have dire consequences for Glens People - McMullan

10 February, 2009

Sinn Féin's Oliver McMullan has said that the spending review currently being undertaken by the Ambulance Service, at the behest of the Health Minister, will mean further cuts in A & E Ambulance provision in rural areas, including the Glens.

Councillor McMullan said:

"NIAS are aiming to save £1.2 million per year between 2008 and 2011. Last year saw the loss of an Accident & Emergency Ambulance in Ballymena, from Monday to Friday. Weekday cover was replaced by a single paramedic Rapid Response Vehicle, which has proven to be totally unsuited to rural needs.

"Despite an Equality Impact Assessment putting on hold any further cuts in A & E Ambulance provision, I fear that such further cuts will be made in the current year, as the Minister, in a letter to Moyle Council dated 22/10/2008, clearly stated that "increased single paramedic response cover and a managed reduction in traditional accident and emergency ambulance cover is a key element of Northern Ireland Ambulance Service modernisation and efficiency plans.

"The Minister seems determined to ignore the fact that the ambulance requirements of rural dwellers often differ from that of their urban counterparts. Rapid Response Vehicles carry limited equipment and medication and are unable to transport patients to hospital. They may very well function efficiently in an urban environment where they can cut through dense traffic over short distances and arrive ahead of fully equipped vehicles, thus saving valuable time. However, when an emergency arises in an outlying rural area, it is essential that a properly staffed and fully equipped ambulance is dispatched immediately.

"It is imperative that the Minister reconsiders cuts in services in towns such as Coleraine, Ballycastle and Larne as his plans could have dire consequences for the outlying rural communities they serve, particularly the Glens. Rumours of the possible closure of the ambulance depot in Ballycastle and changes to shift patterns in Larne are causing grave concern to NIAS personnel as well as to the wider community, who deserve better than a second class service, which tragically has already failed at least one Glens family." ENDS

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