Fianna Fáil Deputy Michael Kitt has demanded action from the Health Minister on the increasing delays in ambulances responding to emergencies in Galway and south Mayo.
Deputy Kitt and his colleague Galway West Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív raised a special Dáil debate on the ‘dangerous gaps’ in the ambulance services in the West of Ireland, which they claim are putting lives at risk.
Questioning the Minister for Health James Reilly, Deputy Kitt said, “We have been calling for an ambulance service in north Galway for some time now and I was one of several representatives who organised a campaign petitioning to have an ambulance base located in Tuam to serve north Galway-south Mayo.
“We expected a 24-hour service, but what we received is a day service that is not fully operational. There is not even a timetable available for the ambulance base. On the one hand we are told there is an embargo on recruitment, and on the other we are told that there are staff willing to transfer to Tuam to provide the service. And yet we are still waiting.
“There is a brand new building in place in Tuam and people are very anxious to have a functioning service operating there. Great work is being done by the Order of Malta but the traffic to and from Galway city where ambulances currently have to come from is a huge issue. We do not have adequate staffing or vehicles and there are over 30,000 people in the catchment area. Approximately €2 million has already been spent on the building in Tuam and people are struggling to understand why it is not in use.
“We are still using Galway city as a base even though we have bases in Loughrea and Carraroe in west Galway. We are waiting for work on the new Gort-Tuam motorway to start. Given that work on that motorway has not started, traffic will be a huge issue and there will be delays in Tuam and south Mayo.
“We have very good and well-trained ambulance staff in the county who regularly go above and beyond the call of duty in very stressful circumstances. But we are seeing a worrying rise in the number of incidents of serious delays in terms of response times. The re-organisation of the ambulance service appears to have created major gaps in local provision. Above all, where a building is available and the staff are available, there is excuse for wasting those resources. Centres like the one in Tuam, which are currently lying idle, need to be staffed and ambulances provided without further delay.”