Dáil debates

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Adjournment Debate

Ambulance Service.

8:00 pm

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me raise this important issue on the Adjournment. The issue is the urgent need for the location of an emergency ambulance service in the town of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, as the lives of heart attack and road traffic accident patients are being put at risk because the existing emergency ambulance service operating out of Clonmel and Waterford cannot meet the required normal response times for ambulance services.

This is an issue that has been going on for quite a number of years. I have raised it on many occasions in the House, as have other public representatives, both locally and nationally. It is time this nettle was grasped and a proper ambulance service was put in place for the people of Carrick-on-Suir.

Carrick-on-Suir, which is in the south-east corner of south Tipperary equidistant from Clonmel and Waterford, has no emergency ambulance. With a population of 5,000, the town is a progressive one that continues to expand with a number of large housing developments having come on stream in the town and the surrounding area in recent times. The hinterland has a population of approximately 10,000 people. There is a need, therefore, for an ambulance service in the town. It is the only major town in south Tipperary without such a service. Tipperary town, Cashel and Clonmel have ambulance services. Despite the best efforts of ambulance staff based at South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel, and Waterford Regional Hospital, they cannot meet standard response times for emergencies. As a result, the lives of road accident victims and those who suffer cardiac arrest have been, and are being, put in jeopardy because of the deficiency in the ambulance service. They are the first responders and they do an excellent job but they cannot be expected to do the job of an emergency team, which comprises trained emergency medical technicians and nurses and uses various equipment carried by an emergency ambulance vehicle.

The Caredoc service is available but it does not provide emergency cover and while it is a good service, it cannot meet the need for emergency services and quick responses to emergencies. I hope the Minister of State will not say a study or an appraisal will be undertaken when he replies because we have been hearing this for years.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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It is on the way.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
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That is only a device to put the issue on the long finger again. I hope the Minister of State will acknowledge the need for an emergency ambulance service in Carrick-on-Suir and he will make a start to providing that service. St. Brigid's Hospital in the town is the ideal location for such a service while a number of health centres are located in the grounds of the hospital. HSE officials in south Tipperary know well that the current emergency ambulance service cannot meet standard response times when travelling to Carrick-on-Suir. No study or appraisal is needed because the departmental officials are also aware of that. I ask the Minister of State to make a start by agreeing this is an important issue and to provide an ambulance service in Carrick-on-Suir.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this matter, which I am taking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has responsibility for the provision of ambulance services. The HSE has advised that services for the Carrick-on-Suir area are provided from the ambulance base in Waterford with a backup service provided from the ambulance base in Clonmel. Funding has been provided in the HSE capital plan 2006 for the upgrade of the ambulance base in Waterford. The pre-hospital emergency care council, which is responsible for the development of professional and performance standards for the ambulance service, is undertaking a spatial analysis in conjunction with the HSE national ambulance office. The results of this analysis will be used to identify the optimum location for ambulance bases and deployment arrangements to meet the identified demands and minimise response times for emergency calls. The analysis commenced in the north-west region and it will be extended by the HSE to cover all regions, including south Tipperary. The HSE is reviewing ambulance demands, activity and response times, with a view to providing the best service for the people of south Tipperary and Carrick-on-Suir. Decisions on the future location on ambulance bases for the region will also be informed by the current reorganisation of acute hospital services in south Tipperary. The elimination of on-call arrangements as a means of providing emergency ambulance cover, is designed to facilitate improvements in response times. The HSE has advised that the provision of additional funding in recent years has facilitated the total elimination of on-call arrangements in a number of areas, including south Tipperary.