'Lives will ultimately now be lost'
KILLARNEY mayor Paddy Courtney has called for a public meeting to discuss HSE proposals concerning a restructured ambulance service in south Kerry.
The mayor said he had decided to call the meeting after reading the front page story in The Keryman last week which quoted a local paramedic's claims that the HSE was "pulling the wool over people's eyes" over its plans to replace Killarney's second emergency ambulance with an intermediary care vehicle.
While the HSE has claimed that there will be an extra 126 resource hours in place between Killarney, Kenmare and Cahersiveen under new rostering and restructuring arrangements, the replacement of Killarney's second emergency ambulance with a vehicle that cannot respond to priority incidents has prompted the mayor's call.
"It is unacceptable and I believe lives will ultimately now be lost," the mayor warned.
"While towns such as Kenmare and Cahersiveen may be relieved that their 24-hour service remains, they need to realise that their ambulance will be used as stand by cover for Killarney when a second emergency ambulance is required - there are knock on effects here," he continued
"This is why I am calling a meeting and all organisations and individuals are invited to give their opinions, including HSE representatives, paramedics, doctors and bodies such as GAA clubs and otherwise. There will be a set agenda, time set aside both to discuss the matters and time to decide on appropriate action," he added.
Cllr Courtney also said he was "shocked and amazed" that a meeting in Killarney with HSE representatives to discuss plans to modernise the service was a de facto presentation with little or no opportunity for discussion.
"Anyone who attended that meeting in St Columbanus was blinded by figures but when these were broken down it was blatantly obvious that Killarney will be at a loss when it comes to ambulance cover for serious incidents," he stated.
The HSE has claimed that a second ambulance in Killarney is unsustainable as it is manned by overtime hours with routine patient transfer hours taking up a disproportionate portion of the ambulance's workload. This claim was denied by a paramedic featured in last week's The Kerryman.
The meeting is set for 7.30pm on September 23 in The Malton Hotel and follows an informal meeting last week attended by Mayor Courtney, Cllr Niall O'Callaghan, Cllr John Joe Culloty, Senator Mark Daly and other interested parties. Senator Daly has warned that the timeframe for action is limited.
"The HSE plans to implement these changes in the coming weeks so we would urge people to come forward and speak out now. Other campaigns have been successful and Killarney has a special case as the population swells so much over the tourist season," he stated.