Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon has called on the Health Minister to ensure that additional ambulance fleets are allocated to the Carrick-on-Shannon base to reduce response times in the region.
He raised the issue with Minister Harris in the Dáil on Wednesday.
Deputy Scanlon explained, “Lengthy ambulance response times across Sligo and Leitrim are unfortunately not unusual, but they are unacceptable. There have been a number of cases in the North West where people have been waiting over an hour for an ambulance to arrive. In one instance last September, a teenage boy who was injured during a football match in Fenagh in Co. Leitrim had to wait on a cold, wet pitch for 80 minutes before an ambulance finally arrived at the scene.
“I am aware of other cases, where patients were waiting over 75 minutes before an ambulance reached them. These can be life or death situations but our ambulance service does not have the capacity to deal with the call-outs they are receiving. Simply put, we need more ambulances and increased crew numbers, especially in the Carrick-on-Shannon base.
“At the moment there is no short term cover available for ambulance staff, so if personnel are out sick, it could lead to ambulance cover being dropped. Ambulance staff are around-the-clock shifts – with 20 hour shifts not unheard of in the North West region. This is unsatisfactory and dangerous.
“I understand that 30 new recruits passed out in the second half of last year but not one was assigned to the North West. This situation needs to be urgently addressed.
“I welcome the fact that the budget for the National Ambulance Service has been increased by €10.9 million this year; however we need to see some of that ring-fenced for ambulances and personnel in this region.
“I would also like to see the First Responder scheme rolled out to the North West. In Dublin, firefighters are trained to paramedic level – that means there are paramedics available on a 24-7 basis. This should also be the case in the regions. I understand that discussions are underway between the NAS and the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management and I would like to see these expedited.
“The current situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is neither acceptable nor safe. I am urging Minister Harris to act on this issue and ensure that additional ambulances and paramedics are assigned to this region as a matter of priority”.