Thursday, 23 September 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputies once again for raising this issue, notwithstanding, as we said, the challenges of the Covid pandemic and the demands it places on our services. The National Ambulance Service is committing to reducing response times in the Laois and Offaly regions and across the country.
Deputy Stanley noted that the distances are being looked at, which is to be welcomed. I hope we can have better consultation on such issues. Deputy Cowen said that the dynamic deployment mechanism is not working for Laois-Offaly. He asked that the Minister liaise with stakeholders on the issue and ensure there is local engagement. I will take his points back to the Minister.
In line with the National Ambulance Service's strategic plan, Vision 2020, the service is undergoing a multi-annual reform programme that prioritises investment in new developments, increased manpower and fleet, and improved technology. This year, an unprecedented €187 million-plus is being invested in the service, including €10 million in new funding that has been allocated to priority areas that will continue to progress strategic reform. The funding facilitated an increase in paramedic staff numbers to target capacity deficits and is being used to progress the development of alternative patient pathways. These include hear-and-treat and see-and-treat services that are designed to manage low-acuity calls in an integrated manner, which may mean that emergency department attendance can be avoided for those patients.
I assure the House that the Government will continue to support these developments within the National Ambulance Service and to prioritise strategic measures that contribute to better patient outcomes. Deputy Cowen spoke about the need to retain these very valuable staff, including advanced paramedics and ambulance personnel. There are challenges in that regard, particularly following the Covid crisis, when ambulance service staff, like many front-line staff, are burnt out. We must recognise that.