June 17, 2024
Ambulance Service delays risk patient safety, particularly in under-served south east – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has expressed concerns that patients continue to be placed at significant risk because of ambulance delays.

The Waterford TD was responding to reports that the National Ambulance Service (NAS) failed to meet response time targets last year and left 850 seriously ill or injured people waiting for an hour or more.

He noted that, according to the HSE Service Plan 2024, the NAS missed its target last year for life threatening callouts responded to within 19 minutes. He added that not only had the ambulance service missed some of its targets in 2023, but these targets had been reduced since 2020 and it was still failing to meet them consistently.

Teachta Cullinane pointed out that additional risk is already faced by people in the south east because of the lack of 24/7 PPCI cardiac intervention at University Hospital Waterford.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“It is extremely concerning that the National Ambulance Service was unable to respond to over 850 people in under an hour last year. The fact is that the NAS has been underperforming so poorly that the Minister for Health reduced its target response times in the HSE Service Plans since 2020.

“The target for purple, the most serious callouts, was reduced from 80% of callouts responded to in under 19 minutes to 75%, and red, which are still life threatening, was reduced from 80% to 45%.

“Despite this massive reduction in targets, the NAS missed its target for Purple callouts in 2023, and barely made its target for Red callouts despite it being significantly reduced. It says everything about how poorly the HSE is being managed by the Minister for Health that he reduces targets to meet them instead of improving performance.

“I know that our paramedics are doing their best. I speak with many on a regular basis. They work flat out, and face burnout and exhaustion. They are completely understaffed and feel unsupported.

“The Ambulance Service has a workforce plan, but the government has seemingly chosen to ignore it. The NAS cannot train, recruit, and retain the number of paramedics it needs. A significant intervention is needed from government to double the NAS paramedic workforce, resource dispatch centres, and expand the fleet. It must also resource local urgent health services, including community paramedic services and urgent care centres.

“People in the south east already carry a significant risk because of the lack of 24/7 PPCI at University Hospital Waterford. We are living with a situation where you are at greater risk if you have a heart attack at the wrong time in the week, which no other region is exposed to. This risk is made worse when we cannot rely on the ambulance service.”

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