The Dáil will this week debate a Fianna Fáil motion on the growing crisis in the ambulance service.
The motion, tabled by Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher, calls for more resources for regional ambulance services following a series of alarming delays in the response time to emergencies in the past few months.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Deputy Kelleher said, “The Government needs to wake up to the growing crisis in our ambulance services. Last year only one in every three people with life-threatening conditions were responded to within the target time. Response times here now far exceed national and international norms. Large parts of the country are being left without any ambulance cover for long periods of time. And lives are being put at risk as a result.
“It is clear that the service is under-funded and under-staffed. Alarmingly, the recent Prime Time programme seemed to indicate a management culture that is in denial about the scale of the problems on the ground. Equally, the Government is effectively sweeping this under the carpet by failing to take any action to address dangerous gaps in what is an essential emergency service.
“The centralisation of ambulance control and dispatch has led to serious inconsistencies in ambulance cover and a lack of local knowledge when it comes to responding to emergencies. It’s meant that ambulances in one county are often diverted long distances to other counties, leaving their own catchment area without any cover whatsoever. For someone in a life-threatening emergency, instructions over the phone are no substitute for hands-on medical care.
“The bottom line is that the service is not adequately resourced and it is not properly managed at a national level. The Republic of Ireland has less than 1,600 ambulance staff and a budget of €137million to cover a population of 4.6 million. Compare that to Scotland which has three times as many ambulance staff and just under twice the budget that we have here for a population of 5.3 million.
“This week in the Dáil, we are asking TDs from all parties to stand up for their local ambulance service and ensure that it gets the basic resources it needs to respond safely to emergencies. People have a right to expect that they will receive a safe and timely response in the event of life-threatening emergencies,” said Deputy Kelleher.