Prime Time highlights a 'dangerously structured' service
County Wexford's ambulance service has come under the spotlight with shocking revelations in an RTE 'Prime Time' investigation about unacceptable delays in ambulances reaching emergency patients.
There are only three ambulances serving the entire county at night, leaving some areas without cover while they are in use.
The programme observed Wexford ambulances in action one night last January and highlighted a 'dangerously structured' service.
A young boy in Enniscorthy who developed breathing problems waited 32 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
An assault victim in New Ross was left waiting 41 minutes after the Enniscorthy ambulance which was originally dispatched had to detour to another emergency.
The Wexford ambulance was then deployed to New Ross, leaving Wexford town without an ambulance for an hour.
The only remaining available ambulance was in Gorey, and when a patient suffered a heart attack in south Wexford, it took 31 minutes to reach the scene.
The 'Prime Time' report revealed that ambulance response times in Ireland are falling dangerously short of targets laid down by the health information and quality authority HIQA.
The recommended first response time for a cardiac-related emergency is seven minutes and 59 seconds while it is 18 minutes and 59 seconds for other life-threatening cases.
However less than one in every three people with a life-threatening condition were responded to within that time last year.
The situation has been blamed on a reduction in the number of emergency ambulances on duty, with additional pressure coming from a high rate of sick leave among ambulance staff.
Former Wexford ambulance worker Brid Ryan Murphy told 'Prime Time' that there is constant pressure to spread ambulances across the county and this frequently leaves Wexford town without an ambulance.
However, Martin Dunne, director of the national ambulance service said 'we are probably running the best ambulance service in the world'.