LIVES will be lost - that was the stark warning from a Macroombased doctor on the mooted proposals to slash ambulance cover by half in the region.
Dr Con Kelleher said if a reduction of "life saving ambulance cover" for the people of Macroom becomes a reality, then at least 80 people per year are at risk.
Dr Kelleher said there are 10 full time doctors in the Macroom catchment region, each of whom has approximately 2,000 patients.
"There are 20,000 patients and it is proved that four people out of every 1,000 people will suffer from a stroke, so that means there will be 80 strokes in Macroom this year and that figure is excluding potential stroke victims in Duhallow and Mallow," said Dr Kelleher.
"The biggest cause of adult disability in Ireland is from strokes. As a doctor, I have seen the effects of strokes; it has left people absolutely devastated. They cannot talk, walk, are incontinent and bed bound and this can happen overnight," he said.
At present, there are four ambulances in operation to cover Macroom, Millstreet, Mallow and Duhallow. The Corkman understands that the HSE are aiming to cut the service to three ambulances by day and two by night.
At present, there is one ambulance which is stationed at the hospital in Macroom, but this can be called out to attend a patient as far away as the northern region of Duhallow or Mallow. For example, the Macroom ambulance had to attend to a patient at a doctor's surgery a few weeks ago in Duhallow.
And just last week, the Kanturk ambulance went to Southdoc in Blackpool and took a woman to the A&E in the Mercy Hospital as there was no ambulance available in Cork city.
Dr Kelleher explained that up to 80% of strokes are treatable within one hour if the patient is given "clot busters". However, he said the longer a patient is left wait, then the more dangerous the situation becomes.
He said that the absolute "maximum time limit" if a stroke victim is not attended is four hours. "The faster a patient is seen then the better the chances of recovery. It is my real fear that if an ambulance is not available and the patient's family live in a rural area and do not have access to a car, then time is against them.
"I really feel and believe that lives will be lost and people will die unnecessarily," he said.