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Minister urged to abandon plans to cut the level of ambulance provision

7 October, 2008

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has urged the Health Minister to abandon plans to cut the level of ambulance provision here.

Ms. Anderson was speaking during Tuesday's Stormont debate on Minister Michael McGimpsey's planned efficiency savings which will lead to a reduction of staffing hours and the replacement of many ambulances with less well-equipped Rapid Response Vehicles.

"In my own constituency of Derry, the underinvestment in the ambulance service was exposed in the most dramatic fashion recently when the same ambulance broke down twice in as many weeks while answering a call-out.

"Both those incidents could easily have led to a tragedy and I believe it is only by sheer good fortune that they did not.

"I would also refer to recent reports which revealed that the city was without adequate ambulance cover for several hours on a Thursday night because there were simply not enough appliances available.

"That is a situation that has occurred time and time again and we are aware of a number of incidents - some of which resulted in fatalities - where ambulances have had to attend from as far away as Fermanagh because there were none available in Derry.

"That is a shocking situation and it is simply intolerable that any area - let lone a city the size of Derry - should be left without adequate ambulance cover for any period of time.

"So, it is clear that much more needs to be done and the Minister needs to address the concerns of the people and abandon these plans.

"I would also be keen to hear what his plans are regarding greater co-operation with the health authorities in the 26 Counties, particularly in border areas such as Derry.

"To be very blunt, the issue of adequate ambulance cover boils down to a matter of life and death and these cuts will devastate people right across the Six Counties." ENDS

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