Thursday, 14 October 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Over the last decade, the ambulance service was removed and after much lobbying and negotiations, we got the ambulance back. I am talking about the time that a general practitioner, GP, arrives at a patient's door, assesses the patient and says that an ambulance is needed to get the patient to hospital immediately. It takes 2.5 hours from that call until the ambulance gets to the door. Let us be clear about what I am challenging. It is not about when the call is logged. It is from the time when the GP makes a medical assessment and says that an ambulance is needed. I could go into personal stories but do not want to bring them before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is simply not acceptable. Some fine people in the ambulance service have said that when they come to retirement age, that is it. If people want to stay in the ambulance service, with the staffing shortages, why not bring retired staff back? Many have come to me to say that they would stay on for another year, or two or three years, but the date is set. I welcome that there will be 80 more paramedics.
I fear that the National Ambulance Service and HSE do not understand that there is a crisis. We are not getting the service that we deserve. We were getting a better service a number of years ago. In the last months in 2021, the crisis has erupted and the waiting times have been substantial. Mallow General Hospital and other hospitals need to be looked at to make sure that they can accept patients, depending on the medical need at the time. It is crucially important that we address the time between when it is decided that an ambulance is needed and when an ambulance comes. It is another hour in the ambulance to either Tralee or Cork from my region, which is not acceptable. I would like if the Minister of State could go back to the powers that be to say that what is going on is unacceptable and it needs to be addressed. There needs to be a proper ambulance service throughout the country but especially, as I am debating today, in my area in north Cork and the Kerry region, which the ambulance would also cover. We need to have a proper ambulance service, which we do not have at present.