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Dáil set to hear that the National Ambulance Service is in ‘crisis’

The Dáil is set to debate a Private Members Motion on the crisis within the National Ambulance Service.

The Motion will claim that according to the most recent data, the HSE spend on private ambulance services has risen from €2.1m in 2011 to €10.1 million in 2019.

Hospitals with the highest spend on private ambulances are to be identified as Letterkenny University Hospital (€1.6 million), Mayo University Hospital (€1 million), and Cavan General Hospital (€682,973).

The Motion will call on the government to recognise that ambulances are too often travelling in excess of 150 kilometres to reach a destination, with instances in excess of 200 kilometres, and there are extreme geographical disparities in ambulance coverage.

It will also be claimed that ambulances are “often left idling outside of hospitals due to a lack of bed capacity and an inability to transfer patients, particularly Covid-19 patients, as accident and emergency services are not operating in an efficient and effective manner, resulting in cancellations of scheduled care and contributing further to the waiting list crisis.”

This has led to “an unacceptably high proportion of shifts, possibly as many as half or more, already run overtime, with 12-hour shifts often lasting 15 hours or more, leading NAS staff to have low morale with widespread burn out and occupation-related mental health difficulties.”

It merged during Leaders Questions on Thursday, that a woman in her 60s died in an ambulance on the way to hospital despite the fact that it had been to respond to her two hours previously.

According to Tipperary TD Michael Lowry who place the information on the record of the Dáil, the ambulance, on its way to the critically ill woman, was stood down and was diverted to care for a man with a back injury:

“When the paramedics arrived, the man walked out of his home and stepped into the ambulance. When a crew eventually arrived for the woman, she was carried out of her home by stretcher. This was the last time that she saw her home.”
Deputy Lowry also noted that soon after a recent shift from the Thurles ambulance base started at 8 p.m. the night crew was dispatched from Thurles to Nenagh, then back to Cashel:

“The next call was to Ballingarry and they were then sent to Tullow, County Carlow, diverted to New Ross and from there to Gowran and Thomastown. They were then sent back to Carlow town. This involved seven and a half hours of non-stop driving and only one patient to be transferred to hospital.”

The Motion (being brought forward by SF) that will be debated next week will call on government to “urgently complete and fund the recommendations of the capacity review on the adequacy of the NAS, to identify additional budgetary needs to phase out the use of private services, reduce reliance on overtime, fill vacancies, and expand staffing and the ambulance fleet to meet need.”

It will ask government to “urgently review the adequacy of the spatial distribution and coverage of the ambulance fleet, ambulance stations and rapid deployment points, to ensure an equitable distribution of services across regions and to reach response time standard targets.”

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