Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the Minister for Health to take urgent action to address problems with the National Ambulance Service.
He said that the Minister needs to act and address delays at hospitals, long distance callouts, a severe overtime culture or provide community-based alternatives for patients presenting who do not require hospitalisation.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The problems faced by the National Ambulance Service are an illustration of the wider deficiencies in the health service.
“Ambulances are often left waiting to decant patients, queued up outside hospitals, often for six or more hours in the case of a covid patient, or two hours in the case of a non-covid patient.
“This is a consequence of overcrowding and insufficient bed capacity, but also a lack of integrated care, deficiencies in primary care, and a lack of community healthcare-based alternatives.
“There is also a culture of severe overtime and this has come up through my meetings with branches of the NAS across the country. In some instances, NAS workers have been on call for two weeks without a single day off.
“Around half of shifts overrun, meaning workers near the end of a shift end up on a long-distance callout which adds hours to already long shifts with sparse breaks.
“The workforce is suffering from moral injury where workers are forced into difficult situations to protect patients where the wider system would otherwise fail them.
“Delayed care is driving demand across the board with late presentations and worsened conditions.
“The Minister needs to act to address these capacity deficiencies, provide for alternative care pathways, and deliver a public education campaign to limit non-essential callouts and to highlight more appropriate alternatives.
“I have secured agreement from the Health Committee to examine these issues further with the NAS in the coming weeks.
“At the end of the day, the NAS and paramedics know what needs to be done. The Minister needs to listen to them and act on their concerns to improve the NAS for patients and staff.”