'We face attacks for delays' - paramedic
Rural based paramedics are facing aggression and sometimes even assault when they arrive at the scene of an emergency, it has been claimed.
Ambulance drivers often face anger and hostility at the scene of accidents due to service delays outside their control.
One paramedic said the situation is causing "low morale" among workers who are determined to do their best for patients in trying circumstances.
"Morale is dropping week on week. Our normal shift is meant to be 12 hours but the minimum is often 13 to 15 hours with some very late finishes. People aren't happy.
"Under the Working Time Act there is meant to be no less than an 11-hour rest period between shifts for health and safety reasons, but we are regularly put under pressure," he claimed.
But he said he fears that "if something goes wrong, if one of us falls asleep at the wheel, the onus is on us not the HSE, we are the ones who will end up in court."
He said it is common for ambulance drivers to be sent to incidents up to 80km away.
"We are the ones on the ground who are left to explain to families why it took so long for us to arrive and why there is such a backlog.
"These are highly sensitive life and death situations and there have been scenarios where paramedics have been assaulted on site because of delays," he said.
The paramedic spoke to the Irish Independent on condition of anonymity.