Galway West Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív has raised grave concerns about new rules preventing voluntary ambulances in Galway and Mayo from responding to local emergencies.
The Fianna Fáil Deputy raised the matter with the Minister for Health James Reilly in the Dáil this week (Wednesday, 02 April).
Deputy O Cuív said, “When I was a Minister, we recognised that the more isolated rural areas were unlikely to ever get an ambulance service adjacent to them. As a result, we provided grant aid through the Order of Malta and the Red Cross for the purchase of voluntary ambulances. Local people did all the necessary training to the standards laid down to become voluntary ambulance workers. We had a very good ambulance service in places like Carna, Leenane and Clonbur in my own area, but also around the country. We had ambulances in place anywhere a local community was willing to commit to this service. They were available on call-out. It meant that times getting to incidents were vastly reduced.
“It was with great shock that I found out recently that the ambulance service of the HSE has claimed that these people who are trained to the national standard and have the qualifications laid down by the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council are not considered sufficiently trained to continue to provide this service.
“My understanding is that there are four levels of qualified staff – emergency first responder, emergency medical technician, paramedics and advanced paramedics. I understand that the HSE’s argument is that these people are not trained paramedics. It is strange then that they are allowed to attend football matches and other events gratis and that if a person has a heart attack there, there is no problem with putting them in the ambulance. However, they cannot do a call-out in the local area and people are expected to wait for an hour, an hour and a half or two hours for a HSE ambulance.
“It makes no sense whatsoever. An ambulance could be sitting within 10 to 15 minutes of the person affected, but according to some bizarre rule they cannot get that ambulance to provide the service.
“Given the alarming failures in the HSE ambulance service meeting its own targets, and the tragedies that have occurred involving patients who have been forced to wait far too long for an ambulance, it is crucial that the Minister investigates what is going on here. He is wasting valuable resources by refusing to allow voluntary ambulances with trained staff to continue their work.”