Resource reduction led ambulance service collapse – Tóibín
Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, Peadar Tóibín, has outlined his concerns with emergency ambulance services which have been highlighted in a HIQA report published yesterday.
Deputy Tóibín, who has seen the effects of delayed emergency response times owing to his involvement with the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, said:
“During 2013 it became clear to me that the ambulance service in Meath was collapsing. As cathaoirleach of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign I was getting calls on a weekly basis indicating that regularly ambulances were arriving to serious life and death emergencies well after their target arrival time and in many cases well over an hour after initial calls had been made.
“In the space of 10 months I had had received over 40 such calls. In 7 of those cases people died. I raised the issue time and time again in the Dáil but met with FG/Lab refusal to deal with the issue. I provided a dossier of emergencies to the national and broadcast media. A number of organisations ran with the facts provided and the government then took interest.
“Finally the Minister for Health and the National Ambulance agreed to meet with me and also to commission a HIQA investigation. This investigation is complete and the report has been written.
“Significantly the report indicated that HIQA is concerned about the ageing profile of the National Ambulance Service’s fleet of emergency ambulances, that staff repeatedly identified an increase in emergency ambulance breakdowns, that there is significant scope for improvement in the information and communication technology systems employed by both services and that this will require investment.
“The Authority also found that there are well known ambulance ‘black spots’ that remain without a dedicated ambulance resource. The Authority reviewed staffing levels in control centres throughout the review, and found that the staffing levels in some ambulance control centres fell below the required safe levels.
“The Review Team also identified that the National Ambulance Service has failed to maintain recruitment of paramedics at a rate sufficient to replace those staff that leave the service. Declining paramedic numbers has resulted on a reliance on the payment of overtime to staff ambulance rosters, or in some cases the dropping of ambulance shifts.
“Dropped ambulance shifts have been a critical element in the reduction of ambulance availability in Meath leading to dangerous life threatening shortages. FG/Lab TDs are directly responsible for this as they have cut funding in the HSE year after year.”