Thursday 14 December 2017

Ambulance response times in jeopardy as ‘turnaround’ delays total 8,000 hours

An ambulance waiting to be received at hospital
An ambulance waiting to be received at hospital
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Below par emergency response times are being blamed on ambulance delays at hospitals which have reached over 8,000 hours.

According to recently published records, these ‘turnaround’ delays have a direct impact on overall response times, as ambulances are held back from taking on their next 999 emergency call.

Independent TD Denis Naughten, who released the records via the HSE’s National Ambulance Service (NAS), said that these figures are “equivalent to having 23 ambulances permanently parked outside hospitals every single day”.

‘Turnaround times’ are a measure of how long it takes paramedics to handover a patient to clinical personnel at the hospital and prepare the ambulance for the next emergency call.

However, delays such as the recorded 8,154 hours for the month of April are unacceptable, according to Naughten.

“This disclosure is nothing short of deplorable as it means that these 23 ambulances are not available to respond to the next 999 call which in some instances could by hours away from the nearest emergency department,” he said.

Ambulance response times have been the focus of much criticism in recent months as they have consistently failed to meet the HIQA target of having an ambulance at the emergency scene within 18 minutes.

A relatively new NAS policy that states that shifts of ambulance personnel that are on short-term sick leave will not be filled has also contributed to longer response times.

“These figures are just another example of where the emergency services are failing the public who rely upon them due to inadequate resourcing, which  effectively means that we have death by geography, for those who are forced to rely on the ambulance service to get to hospital,” said Mr Naughten.

The HSE told that the NAS "monitors hospital turnaround times on a continuous basis and has an Escalation Policy which is implemented when required".

"As part of the NAS performance improvement process actions are being undertaken to ensure the turnaround of ambulance resources in a timely manner," the HSE spokesperson said. 

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