Ambulance service shake-up will cost lives, say critics
THOUSANDS of volunteers are to be trained as part of a nationwide plan to shake up ambulance services and increase response times.
The controversial strategy by the HSE will see members of the public given basic medical first aid in order to become frontline first responders.
The move is necessary in order to achieve ambitious targets set down by the health watchdog HIQA of a first response within eight minutes of a 999 call.
While such volunteers already exist around the country, numbers are to be increased in order to meet requirements.
New plans will also see a greater number of rapid response cars manned by paramedics in place of ambulances, intermediate care vehicles to transport patients in non-emergency situations, and public taxis.
The HSE said this was being done in order to improve the quality and efficiency of emergency responses.
However, critics are claiming the plan will cost lives. The Cork and Kerry region is facing the replacement of 16 'on call' and two 'on duty' ambulances with 12 ambulances and six rapid response vehicles on duty at all times.
The HSE has said it is not a cost-saving exercise but a way of rethinking how emergency services might be provided.
However, Skibbereen mayor Frank Fahy, a station officer with the local fire service for the past 25 years, dismissed the plans.
"The method that the HSE are proposing to replace the on-call service with makes no sense at all," he said.
"Getting rid of two ambulances for this (West Cork) area is absolutely detrimental to the situation and will cause deaths."
Robert Morton, director of the HSE National Ambulance Service, said the impending changes were a move towards a more 'community-based care service'.