A PRIVATE ambulance servicing late-night drinkers in pubs is to be rolled out.
The Galway service, which is the first of its kind in Ireland or the UK, will operate solely among the pubs and clubs of the city and will be launched as the influx of students return to the city later this month.
The public ambulance service in the city is under particular pressure on weekend nights when there are two or three ambulances on duty.
Drinking levels in the city have long been a cause of concern with University Hospital Galway frequently filled to capacity at weekends as a result of drink-related injuries.
However, the company behind the venture, Cara Ambulance Service, insisted it would not be operating a taxi service for drunken revellers to get to the nearest hospital.
"We deal with every medical emergency from a sprained ankle to a cardiac arrest. It's not just drink-related, it's a wide range of areas," said Wayne Gill, a spokesman for Cara Ambulance Service. The private venture, Night Medics, will solely operate in night venues between the hours of 9pm and 4am, seven days a week. Two paramedics and an emergency medical technician will man the ambulance each night.
Up to 20 pubs and nightclubs in Galway have already signed up for the service, which will see the ambulance respond immediately to assist clientele.
While the company would not elaborate on the cost to each venue for signing up to the service it stressed that no cost would be levied on the patient.
Mr Gill added that the service would in no way remove responsibility from venues in regards to serving drunk patrons.
"A lot of people that would require medical attention may unintentionally be in an alcoholic state, if someone was spiked for example. That is alcoholic poisoning and they need urgent treatment. It's not just about people who are out to get drunk. Ambulances wouldn't carry a person just because they are drunk, it will need to be a medical emergency," he said.
Each venue will be given the direct number to the ambulance, which will also call into the venues throughout the night. In the event of a call, a full on- scene assessment and screening will take place before the decision is taken on what further treatment people need.
"If someone cut their arm they might not need to go to an A&E, they could go to Westdoc. But they need to be stabilised on scene before that decision is taken," explained Mr Gill.
The group also insists that the venture will in no way infringe on the HSE service.
"This ambulance is privately booked by the venues. If it comes upon someone collapsed outside the venue it will ring 999 and offer assistance until the ambulance arrives," said a spokesman for the company.
Cara Ambulance Service is also in the process of setting up a second such venture in Cork city. It is due to be up and running by October.
The idea for the project arose after members of the company became aware that many nightclubs now hire a medic to remain on the premises for the night.