Offaly Deputy Barry Cowen has questioned the Minister for Health James Reilly in the Dáil about the deepening crisis in the ambulance service, which he claims is threatening patient safety across the Midlands.
The Fianna Fáil Deputy was referring to the recent Prime Time exposé which contained disturbing revelations about the ambulance service failing to meet its targets on response times for patients.
“I find it extremely worrying that patients in emergency situations are being expected to wait an unacceptable length of time for an ambulance. These days there seems to be an element of chance involved as to whether a patient will get an ambulance within a reasonable length of time. There have been some extremely tragic incidents where ambulances have not reached patients in time. It’s clear that in these circumstances, advice over the phone is no substitute for hands on medical attention,” said Deputy Cowen.
“This is clearly a management issue. There is no doubt that the emergency workers on the ground go above and beyond in their duties every single day. But the re-organisation of the service has meant that ambulances are travelling vast distances to reach patients, and often leaving entire counties without any cover for periods of time. It’s also clear the service does not have the resources it needs to guarantee a prompt and safe response to emergency situations in all parts of the country at all times of the day or night.
“Having listened to the Minister, I am fearful that the position may be graver than I had thought. The Minister is not prepared to acknowledge that one third of those in life threatening circumstances waited too long for an ambulance to arrive last year. He does not acknowledge the gravity of the situation. I have called on him to give a commitment to expedite matters by having an independent review and assessment carried out and a report presented to the House within one month. We cannot allow more lives to be put at risk as the Government drags its heels on this.
“I have not seen the Government take any action to address the issue. I want the Health Minister to acknowledge the severity of the problem and take action to sort it out now.”