Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher is calling for a special Dáil debate on the safety of the National Ambulance Service following disturbing revelations in an RTÉ Prime Time Investigation programme.  It has been revealed that the service is failing to meet important targets for response times set by HIQA.

Deputy Kelleher commented: “The revelations in this RTÉ programme raise immediate questions about the safety of the National Ambulance Service.  I am extremely worried about the element of chance that seems to apply to whether or not a patient can get an emergency response in a timely manner.  HIQA has set a target that 75% of all life-threatening calls should get a response within 8 minutes but the National Ambulance Service dropped that target for cardiac and respiratory emergencies to 50% and 24% for other life-threatening conditions.  It is totally unacceptable that the ambulance service is not even meeting its own targets, never mind the targets set by HIQA.

“One of the major issues that stands out is the use of the rapid response vehicles.  The fact that many vehicles are not being used at night and over weekends to attend emergency call-outs calls into questions the efficiency of the system.  These specialist vehicles cost the taxpayer in excess of €100,000 and RTÉ’s programme details that out of 70 cars designated as rapid response vehicles only 15 of these are used on a rostered basis throughout the country.  This is simply not good enough for the National Ambulance Service.

“I previously asked Minister Reilly if rapid response vehicles were used for “alternative purposes” but I believe the Minister was deliberately vague in his answer when he said such vehicles were not used for “private purposes”.  The fact that these vehicles are effectively being used as a form of company car for senior managers in the ambulance service and are not always tasked to support emergency call-outs is very worrying.  I will be asking Minister Reilly to direct that an immediate audit of the rapid response vehicles and their efficient use be carried out as a matter of urgency.

“More investment and a better use of the resources are critical to ensure public confidence.  Fianna Fáil will be seeking time in the Dáil for a special debate on the National Ambulance Service next week.  I think the issues raised in the RTÉ programme cast doubt over the efficiency and safety of the system.  It is essential that the public can have full trust and confidence in the ambulance service.  I believe that confidence will be damaged by the revelations this week and they must be addressed quickly by the Minister.”