Thursday, 8 March 2007
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for this opportunity to raise this issue once again. I am calling for the putting in place of an emergency ambulance service for Carrick-on-Suir. I have lost count of the number of times I have raised this issue during the course of this Dáil with the current Minister and her predecessors. I appeal to the Minister to at last approve what would be a life-saving service for the people of Carrick-on-Suir and surrounding areas.
This issues unifies all the people of the town, its public representatives and political parties. Everybody in the area has supported the call for a service for quite a number of years. Even at this late hour, the Minister and the HSE could approve the location of an emergency ambulance service to cover the town.
Carrick-on-Suir has approximately 5,000 people, with quite a hinterland into north Waterford, north-east Tipperary and parts of Kilkenny. It is very poorly served, if at all, by the emergency ambulance service. Neither the service operating from Waterford nor that operating from South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel can meet acceptable response times in the Carrick-on-Suir area. That puts lives at risk, particularly in cases of road traffic accidents and heart attacks, and has done so for a number of years.
I hope the Minister of State will not tell me there will be another survey or review, or that this issue is subject to extensive discussions, etc. We have heard all that before. All local people, including politicians of all parties and the Minister of State's colleagues, and Health Service Executive officials accept the need for this emergency ambulance service for Carrick-on-Suir. It should be delivered.
We all acknowledge and compliment those involved in the community defibrillator programme in Carrick-on-Suir and throughout the country, as well as first responders. We thank these people for their invaluable work and hope more will come on board to train for these programmes. The Minister of State should not indicate that these programmes are a substitute for a proper emergency ambulance service for Carrick-on-Suir, however. They were never meant to be such and do not substitute for a properly staffed and resourced service with emergency medical technicians and paramedic staff. That is the service we are looking for in the town.
St. Brigid's Hospital is excellent and there is a health centre in the town with extensive grounds. The location of the hospital and health centre would be ideal for the emergency ambulance station. I ask the Minister of State to approve this life-saving service for the people of Carrick-on-Suir at the 11th hour, as we have been united on the matter for many years.
I am taking this Adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I will ensure that Deputy Healy's comments are brought to the Minister's attention.
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 back-up service provided from the ambulance base in Clonmel. Funding of €650,000 was provided in the HSE Capital Plan 2006 for the upgrade of the ambulance base in Waterford.
As part of the revised organisational framework developed under the HSE, a national ambulance service was established to replace the eight ambulance services that operated under the former health board structure. A key task being undertaken by the HSE's national ambulance office is to review the adequacy of the ambulance service in the context of responses to emergency calls. This process has already commenced and will involve a study of the entire country in the form of a spatial analysis that will be conducted in separate stages in different regions. It is anticipated the study in respect of the south-east area will be completed in the latter half of this year. When the outcome of the study is available, it will be used by the HSE to identify the optimum location for ambulance bases and deployment arrangements to meet the identified demands and minimise response times for emergency calls.
The HSE is reviewing ambulance demands, activity and response times with a view to providing the best service for the people of south County Tipperary and Carrick-on-Suir. Decisions on the future location of ambulance bases for the region will also be informed by the re-organisation of acute hospital services in south Tipperary.