Wednesday 17 January 2018

Crisis-hit ambulance service 'puts lives at risk'

The ambulance service is under pressure
The ambulance service is under pressure

Alan O'Keeffe

A crisis in Ireland's national ambulance service means seriously ill patients are often not being reached within an acceptable time.

Up to seven out of 10 people in Ireland with life-threatening conditions are not getting the services of ambulance paramedics within internationally accepted normal response times, according to a 'Prime Time' investigation to be broadcast tonight.

Lives are regularly put at risk because of the service's inability to get to homes or accident scenes within target times, it will say.

The programme claims expensive resources, including the rapid response vehicles which cost the Irish taxpayer in excess of €100,000 each, are being wasted.

According to 'Prime Time', the majority of these vehicles have been allocated to managers and are rarely used for emergency callouts.

Programme makers also claim that long delays caused by a lack of locally based ambulances are resulting in patients not getting the life-saving treatment on time.

These delays far exceed both national and international accepted norms.

'Prime Time' reporter Oonagh Smyth reveals that last year only one in every three people with life threatening conditions in Ireland (30pc) were responded to within the target time.

In accordance with guidelines based on international standards, patients with life threatening emergencies should be treated by a first responder within eight minutes.

In England and Scotland three out of every four people (75pc) are responded to within eight minutes.

The RTE Investigations Unit said it witnessed first hand as patients in emergency situations waited up to an hour for an ambulance to arrive.

Patients and their families described the devastating consequences they endured as a result of this.


The programme also reveals how large areas of the country are regularly left without any local ambulance cover.

One whistleblower currently working in an ambulance control room described her concerns about the ongoing and repeated failures in the national service.

These claims were contradicted in the programme by the HSE's director of the National Ambulance Service.

A HSE spokesman told the Irish Independent last night: "Martin Dunne, head of the national ambulance service, has done an interview with the programme... As we have not yet seen the programme, it is not possible to comment further."

'The Ambulance Service Uncovered – Prime Time', tonight at 9.35pm on RTE One and RTE News Now.

Irish Independent

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