Seanad debates

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Adjournment Matters.

Ambulance Service.

6:00 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The Minister of State knows of my interest in obtaining an ambulance base in Tuam, north-east Galway. I raised this issue on a number of occasions, pointing out that a design for a major health campus was completed in October 2002. This would include a community hospital, an Alzheimer's disease unit, a child care training centre, a primary care unit and an ambulance base in Tuam. A minimum of two ambulances and eight staff would cost between €600,000 and €800,000.

Ambulance bases exist in Galway city, Clifden, Carraroe, west Galway, Loughrea, south-east Galway, and Ballinasloe, serving the Roscommon area. A major gap exists in north-east Galway, where there is no ambulance service. The case is exacerbated by the fact that the service in Galway city, which normally serves north-east Galway, is now too busy to attend to the area. It was envisaged that the site of the former Bons Secours Hospital, Tuam would be the site for the health campus, serving north-east Galway and south Mayo, areas that were part of the former western health board region.

I was heartened by new proposals for ambulances services in Birr, Roscrea and Shannon but I wish to make my case as strongly as possible to the Department of Health and Children. I have already presented the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children with a petition containing 5,000 names. She is aware of how serious this matter is and met with members of the ambulance trade union who explained the pressure they were under to serve Galway city. The same service is expected to serve north-east Galway.

I thank the Ministers of State, Deputies Brian Lenihan and Seán Power, and the Tánaiste for the recent provision of staff for two cancer care beds to Tuam. This allocation of €250,000 was badly needed and I seek a sum in the region of €800,000 to set up an ambulance base with two ambulances and eight staff. The people of the area need the service quickly as it cannot be provided from Galway city, Mayo or Roscommon.

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 am taking part in this Adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. Under the Health Act 2004, the HSE has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of ambulance services. I am aware of the many eloquent pleas Senator Kitt has made for a Tuam ambulance service.

Within the western area the HSE provides emergency and patient transport ambulance services to a population of over 350,000 people. The Department of Health and Children is advised that the emergency ambulance service is provided from ten stations across the catchment area. There has been a significant expansion of this service in recent years, the number of 24-hour bases has increased from three to five, while the hours of operation across all bases have increased significantly.

In 2004 six new high-specification ambulances were provided. In addition, two new rapid response vehicles have been introduced as backup to the new fleet. Facilities at ambulance stations in Ballina, Boyle, Clifden and Roscommon have also been improved. The executive has responsibility for the continuing development of the service. It is developing proposals for the establishment of a number of additional stations in the western area, including a station in the Tuam area.

The HSE's national ambulance office supports the development of a new ambulance base in Tuam. The provision of additional funding for this development is a matter for the HSE in the context of its capital priorities for 2006.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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Is the Minister of State hopeful that we might have some news of an ambulance base in 2006?

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 do not have any information beyond what I have stated in my reply.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I am sure the Minister of State will work to bring about what I requested.

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 certainly will.