The service is 'in shambles'

Donal Nolan

Published 28/08/2013 | 05:36

Ambulance issues in the Kenmare area have been exacerbated this week with the news that two pensioners had to endure waits of three and five hours respectively on two different days.

LIVES are being put at risk by an increasingly shambolic ambulance service in south Kerry, a local politician has warned.

LIVES are being put at risk by an increasingly shambolic ambulance service in south Kerry, a local politician has warned.

County Councillor Johnny Healy Rae (right) said that ambulance cover for the area is 'in shambles' at present following a recent incident in which a seriously-ill pensioner living in the Kilgarvan side of Kenmare was forced to wait five-and-a-half hours.

The man, in his late 80s, was seriously ill yet had to wait for five-and-a-half hours before an ambulance reached him.

"It's the latest in a number of similar, increasing incidents and it's putting lives at risk. It's very serious now and there is massive concern among the people of south Kerry," Cllr Healy Rae said.

He said the family of the man do not yet know what happened as they have received no answers from the HSE as to why he had to wait so long on Friday, August 16, last.

"He was in a serious way. He is in his late 80s and has serious respiratory trouble. His lungs were full of fluid at the time and his GP rang for an ambulance at 5.20pm. The ambulance didn't come until 10.50pm and the paramedics there said they had been attending the scene of an accident and were unable to get there before then," Cllr Healy Rae added.

The man was eventually rushed to Bantry Hospital for treatment and is understood to be recovering as well as can be expected from his ordeal.

But it highlights an issue of massive public concern in the region ahead of looming changes to the National Ambulance Service (NAS)'s work in the region.

Many fear that ambulance cover will be reduced with the NAS rolling out 'first responder vehicles' that can only attend patients in difficulty but cannot transport patients to hospitals.

"These changes have come in already when the call centre was centralised to Dublin. There was another recent incident in which a woman had to drive her cancer-stricken husband to Macroom to meet a Cork ambulance there after a Kerry ambulance was told it could not transport him to the Mercy hospital in which he was being treated in Cork.

"The man was collapsing and the woman was awfully panicked and lost precious hours between it all. The Cork ambulance eventually took him from Macroom to the Mercy."

The Save Our Ambulance Kenmare (SOAK) group was established earlier this year to campaign for the retention of full ambulance cover for the region in anticipation of the changes. Earlier this year the SOAK group collected 9,000 signatures in a petition which was then handed to Deputy Michael Healy Rae.

Meanwhile, north Kerry has been hit by similar changes. Listowel was left without ambulance cover for an entire day three weeks ago due to late-notification sick leave by an NAS paramedic, The Kerryman revealed.

A 'first responder' vehicle was deployed in Listowel instead of an ambulance on the day and was called out to three minor incidents that did not, luckily, require hospitalisation. It led to grave local concern, however, when it emerged.

Cllr Healy Rae said he was delighted that the HSE agreed to meet SOAK in a meeting in Killarney next week on the issue.


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