Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has called for a targeted strategy to be put in place to review and monitor ambulance response times on a monthly basis following alarming figures which show that over 70% of potentially life-threatening emergencies are not responded to within the target times set out by HIQA.

Deputy Kelleher said: “The situation this week involving a Carlow GAA player having serious medical treatment delayed because of delays in ambulance transport throws a spotlight on a very serious issue in the health service.  Figures I have obtained from the HSE show that less than 28% of ‘potentially life-threatening emergencies’ in 2011 were not met by a first responder within eight minutes, despite the fact that HIQA has recommended that 75% of all patients are seen to within this time.  Approximately 37% of 999 calls fall into this category.

“The HSE figures also reveal that just over half of all those in a ‘life-threatening emergency’ with cardiac or respiratory conditions were seen to be a first responder within eight minutes.  Again HIQA has said this should be 75%.

“This is an extremely serious issue that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.  HIQA has set strict targets that are not being met and patients are not getting the medical attention they need in emergencies in a timely fashion.

“The Director of the National Ambulance Service has told me that before any significant progress on achieving improvements in response times is possible we need to stop using emergencies ambulances for inter hospital transfers and the National Service Plan for this year makes no provision for this at all.

“Almost 30 paramedics took early retirement in February and the National Ambulance Service has said ‘it is possible that there may be some decreases in the volume of services available if numbers of paramedics are reduced.

“HIQA has said that a timely pre-hospital emergency response in acute medical events, such as heart attacks, is known to improve patient outcomes.  I am calling on Minister Reilly to meet with the HSE on this issue and put in place an action plan to ensure First Responder targets are met and lives are not put at risk.”