Mayo Fianna Fáil Deputy Dara Calleary has told the Dáil that there are dangerous gaps in the ambulance service in Co Mayo that are putting lives at risk.
He was speaking on a Fianna Fáil motion demanding greater resources for the regional ambulance service following a series of alarming delays in responding to emergencies in Mayo and surrounding counties.
Speaking in the Dáil last night (Tuesday 15 April), Deputy Calleary said, “On 21 October, the service received a call from a patient in Ballina at 10.40 p.m. Apparently the ambulance was mobile three minutes later, which is fantastic and a tribute to the staff on board. It got to the scene at 12.10 a.m. It left the scene at 12.29 a.m. and was at the hospital at 1.02 a.m. and clear at 2.09 a.m. The reason for the delay was that the ambulance came from Boyle in County Roscommon because the ambulance crew based in Ballina was responding to a call in Rooskey in County Roscommon. Earlier that evening, an ambulance crew from Clifden had to be called to Ballina to address a call in that region.
“That is the reality on the ground and the HSE makes no apology for it. Minister of State Deputy Kathleen Lynch had to intervene for me to obtain an answer to a parliamentary question on the ambulance service. The HSE stated the national ambulance service operates on a national basis as opposed to a local basis. This contradicts directly the notion of having patient care at the heart of a service.
“In County Mayo right now there are two ambulances based in the Castlebar region, one in Ballina and, since it is Tuesday, one on call in Belmullet. If they get called out of the county, as they do given the approach of operating on a regional basis, there will be no ambulance. Erris is the size of County Louth. We are saying that one ambulance on call there tonight is good enough for the people there. Anybody taken seriously ill in Belmullet tonight will immediately be brought to Mayo General Hospital so the ambulance will be gone from the region for at least two hours. That is for a basic call. We saw the consequences of this recently. Former Deputy Dr. Jerry Cowley had to deliver a baby because the ambulance that was to bring a pregnant lady from Achill to Castlebar was late arriving.
“The reality is that less than one third of calls are within the target time. It very much boils down to resources. As my colleagues have pointed out, resources have been made available, including jeeps and rapid vehicles. On the Prime Time programme, we saw how they are being misused. It is now three weeks since the “Prime Time” programme but there has been no adequate explanation given for the use of the vehicles in the meantime. If the resources the Minister has provided are not being managed in such a way as to put patient care at the centre, this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“We have the best ambulance workers in the world, of that I have no doubt, and all of us know of examples where they have responded to calls. But have we the best service in the world? Have we a service that actually treats the best ambulance workers in the world with respect? Clearly, we do not. Have we a service that is run and managed with what it aspires to have, namely, to have patients and patient care at the heart of the service? There is no way we can say that, under this way of running things, patient care is at the heart of the service. I say we must give the people who work in the service the support they deserve, give the people who need the service the service they deserve and give the country the ambulance service it needs based on its geographical make-up,” said Deputy Calleary.