Slow ambulance response times are posing danger to public, report claims
An expert analysis of the country's ambulance service confirms that the public is exposed to danger from the failure to meet emergency response times, it was claimed yesterday.
Michael Dixon, chair of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association, was commenting on a HSE-commissioned report, which revealed that just one in 15 ambulances is reaching stricken patients in life-threatening emergencies within the eight-minute target in rural areas.
The unpublished report by UK consultants warned that even if the HSE-run National Ambulance Service was fully resourced it would only be capable of having around 60pc of ambulances meet the response time set by Hiqa.
It said this was due to the rural spread of much of the country's population.
Mr Dixon said many emergency ambulances were still being called on to ferry patients back and forth from hospital for routine transfers and that this reduced their availability.
"Our statement last year - that the worrying rise in the number of incidents of serious delays in ambulance response times was evidence that the service cannot meet the impossible Hiqa response-time targets, especially while resources and personnel were being cut - is, sadly, fully vindicated by the independent review ordered by the HSE," he said.
The finding that, even if the service was fully resourced and operating to international best practice standards, it still could not meet the targets, was, he said, "particularly disturbing."
The report, which calls for major investment, said staff overtime, which now accounts for 20pc of the pay bill, should be cut to 10pc to help fund around 290 more staff to deliver core hours.
It estimated overall that some 750 more staff and 250 ambulances were needed.
"Today's report confirms the understaffing and under-resourcing of the ambulance service," Mr Dixon said.
"However, the HSE and National Ambulance Service deny this and instead continue the chaotic management of the services by relying on extended and unsustainable 12-15 hour rosters, cancellation of leave and overtime and non-rostered staff to keep ambulances on the road."
Siptu said it has written to the new Health Minister, Simon Harris, urging him to publish the report.
It added: "This will allow stakeholders to engage constructively on the future development of a publicly resourced and run ambulance service in which the public can have full confidence."
The report highlights how many ambulance stations, which are used as deployment points, are not well located and ambulances are losing valuable time before reaching patients who may be on the brink of death.