Fianna Fail Deputy for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has highlighted the need for ambulance services in rural areas to be delivered in a more effective manner as only one in 15 ambulances are reaching patients in rural Ireland within the eight minute target.
Deputy Murphy raised the matter through an oral question with Minister for Health Simon Harris in the Dail on Tuesday.
“The provision of ambulance services for rural Ireland needs to be examined in a different way to more urban centres. Response times are totally unacceptable for emergencies in rural Ireland. The delivery of unrealistic time lines for ambulance response times in rural areas is not been tackled and patients are left waiting and in some cases putting lives at risk.
“The Lightfoot Solutions report which was commissioned by the HSE gave specific attention to the fact that rural Ireland has to be serviced in a different way. The National Ambulance Service review also requested 750 more staff and 250 more ambulances to ensure the delivery of a safe and swift service.
“According to that Lightfoot Report only 1 in 15 Ambulances are reaching patients in need of emergency care within the eight-minute target in rural areas. I do not think that this is acceptable considering that 60% of patients in rural Ireland live another 45 minutes or more away from an A&E. The least we can do minister is to ensure that emergencies are dealt with in a timely fashion in relation to the provision of ambulance services,” said Eugene Murphy.
The Fianna Fail TD also noted that figures for County Roscommon ambulance call outs for October to December 2015 show that only 54% of Delta (potentially life threatening calls) met the 19 minute target while only 56% of Delta calls were within the 19 minute target for County Roscommon from January to June 2016.
“Our A and E’s have been cut and closed in rural Ireland and the communities rely on the ambulance service for life saving intervention. When A&E services were closed around the country millions of euro were saved- this money should have been pumped directly into ambulances and staff as well as expanding our Emergency Helicopter Service to a 24 hour service that can deal with night time emergencies as well as day light hours.
“Once again I ask the minister to look to other countries for inspiration in relation to the delivery of a comprehensive ambulance service for rural Ireland. I am also calling for an expansion of the Community First Responder Scheme and more support for local communities to have defibrillators in place- we need to provide more training and also the servicing of the defibrillators,” said Eugene Murphy.
Future funding welcomed
The Fianna Fail TD welcomed the response from Minister Harris that there is a need for a multi-annual programme of phased investment in ambulance manpower, vehicles and technology. Minister Harris indicted that increased funding will be available to the National Ambulance Service for 2017 while the Minister also pointed to a number of significant service innovations and developments which have taken place including the establishment of the National Emergency Operations Centre, from where all call taking and ambulance dispatch is now undertaken.