Emergency services still not hitting response targets
AMBULANCE response times for life-threatening emergencies are still significantly below targets across the country.
Figures for the first three months of this year seen by the Irish Independent show target times are consistently being missed in all three ambulance service regions, with the west of the country remaining the worst when it comes to the speed of emergency service responses.
The Health Information and Quality Authority recommends that patients receive first responder medical attention in under eight minutes for cardiac or respiratory arrest (Echo) and other life-threatening (Delta) emergencies.
It also recommends that this target should be met in 75pc of all cases. And it calls for ambulances to respond to such emergencies within 19 minutes in 85pc of cases.
However, for the first three months of this year, the target times were missed in all but one instance around the country.
The figures come on the back of a number of tragedies, including the death last month of two-year-old Vakaris Martinaitis in Midleton, Co Cork, when no ambulance attended the scene; and the death of 74-year-old Eneas McDonnell who died of a heart attack at Mayo General Hospital last August while waiting for an ambulance to take him to University Hospital Galway for specialist cardiac treatment.
The statistics also show no improvement on the 2012 figures.
Patients in Leinster are twice as likely to get a response to a cardiac emergency within eight minutes than those in the west of the country.
In one month alone this year, patients in the west had a less than one in five chance of getting a first responder on site within the vital eight minutes in a life-threatening Echo emergency.
In the first three months of the year, the National Ambulance Service received 13,676 Echo and Delta emergency calls which should have seen a first responder on the scene within eight minutes in 75pc of cases.
However, the figures show that no region met the targets.
In Echo emergencies, the fastest response was in north Leinster where six out of 10 first responders were on the scene within eight minutes.
In February, the number of Echo calls responded to within the recommended time frame dropped to only 18.6pc in the west. Delta calls also fell significantly below target. Delta emergencies around the country accounted for 13,137 calls in the first three months of the year.
Leinster patients also fared best with these emergencies, with first responders meeting the recommended timeframe in three out of 10 cases.
The west fared slightly better than the south for Delta calls, coming in at 27.7pc and 25.7pc respectively.
Roscommon Independent TD Denis Naughten, who requested the latest figures, called on the HSE to redouble its efforts to deal with the growing problem.
"This is a serious issue, especially in the west of the country where the service is consistently under-performing compared with other parts of the country," he said.
A statement from the HSE said: "Most jurisdictions are now preparing to transition to clinical outcome indicators as a true reflection of the work of a modern ambulance service."