- New ambulance crew to be assigned to Galway in coming weeks
- 112 new paramedics per annum undergoing training
- €45m for new ambulance service vehicles across the country over last three years
Last week I had a very informative visit to the National Ambulance Service Control Centre in Tallaght and a constructive meeting with the Director of the Service, Mr Martin Dunne and senior personnel.
The visit was prompted by recent incidents in Connemara when an ambulance was not immediately available and I and many others expressed concern at the situation where there are long delays in getting to a patient.
The National Ambulance Service, from its offices at Tallaght and Ballyshannon, operates an internationally recognised service to the highest standards. The service is underpinned by the latest Information Technology to provide life-saving medical assistance in emergencies in the fastest time possible.
The Control Centre also operates the Intermediate Care Service through which patients across the country are transferred between health facilities including acute hospitals, step-down facilities, out-patient departments and nursing homes.
While resourcing is always an issue the Service has received over €45 million in the last three years for ambulance service vehicles and has one of the newest fleets across Europe. Last year 112 new paramedics were trained and a further €2.8 million has been allocated this year for a new intake of 112 paramedics. Therefore the service is ramping up the number of paramedics in the system, the net increase is 90 per annum following retirements.
As a result of the investment 6 – 8 new staff – in effect a new crew to operate an ambulance across 24 hours – will be assigned to Galway by the end of March. This increase should allow the South Connemara crew to be available in the region on a more regular basis. It was emphasised that when an emergency call is received the closest ambulance is dispatched. This is the protocol and will rightly remain so.
The Director has agreed to carry out a mini capacity review of the National Ambulance Service in Connemara and will report back to Oireachtas Members. On the issue of resources I will be liaising with the Minister of Health, Simon Harris and pressing for as much investment as possible for this comprehensive and crucial service.
With regard to Connemara, the National Ambulance Service responded to 1,407 calls in 2017 of which 1,203 were emergency category, 186 urgent and 18 routine. The average response times ranged from 18 minutes and 30 seconds for the most serious category of cardiac or respiratory arrest to 37 minutes and 52 seconds for minor, non-life threatening incidents or illnesses.
The Service works to ensure that resources can be allocated on a real time basis across regions depending on and taking into account the level of demand or any significant incidents. The point was raised with the Director that such a system can leave areas in more remote locations or communities in peripheral regions with less cover at certain times.
The Service in the West of Ireland is supported by the Aeromedical Ambulance Service operated from Athlone in conjunction with the Defence Forces. There is also a high level of co-operation with the Coast Guard and its four helicopters.