Dáil debates

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Ambulance Service

3:30 pm

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Notwithstanding the debt of gratitude we owe front-line workers, healthcare workers especially, I wish to raise, as my colleague has done, the issue and the plight of the ambulance services. There are serious concerns, worries and fears in my community and constituency as a result of incidents relating to ambulance services. Reports from crews and patients around the country over the past year or so suggest serious concerns about delays in ambulances arriving to treat patients. These delays were once an occasional occurrence but, unfortunately, now seem to be making the news daily. In one week alone, in a small town in my constituency, three cases were highlighted to me in which very serious delays occurred. Paramedics are also being dispatched, as the previous speaker said, to calls way outside of their own regions, irrespective of the levels of cover locally. In turn, many calls in the midlands recently have been answered by crews from as far away as Roscommon, Ballinasloe, Athy, Maynooth and Cavan. This, of course, is because the midlands crews themselves have been dispatched to other regions. Staff suggest that keeping crews in their own areas, as was the case previously, would improve response times. They state that until the centralisation of the control centre there were never, and they do not ever remember, delays of two to three hours or more, as has been the case in recent times. Crews are desperate for things to improve but staff morale because of this, as the Minister of State would appreciate, is very low. It is leading to huge absence levels. I believe up to 50 shifts were left uncovered in one part of the country last week alone. It has been relayed to us that some staff were released from front-line duty to carry out Covid swabbing. Returning them to front-line duty should be considered as an option to improve staffing levels at present. I implore the Minister of State to insist on improvements and measures that can improve operations and to put in place a mechanism by which that is reviewed as soon as possible and regularly thereafter.


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