Duhallow 'left with no ambulance'
No local emergency response available while when unit called to serve city
THE entire Duhallow region was left without an ambulance on Saturday last, after the Millstreet service was requested to attend calls in Cork city while the Kanturk unit was called to respond to at least three calls in Mallow.
This is according to a source close to the ambulance service in North who added that this repeated 'haphazard' attitude to what should be "a ready to go rapid response emergency unit" will ultimately lead to a person dying because of lack of staff.
The allegations come just days after the HSE revealed that a new style of rapid response paramedic service is to be brought into service in Cork, as a partial replacement for A/E units. The first is being set up in remote west Cork with a team of six highly experienced paramedics that will travel to emergencies and give more advanced treatment than ambulance personnel have given heretofore. The service is due to be rolled out in North Cork next year, according to Prof John Higgins of the HSE.
Meanwhile, however, the ambulance at Mallow General Hospital has apparently been nicknamed 'the scan wagon' by HSE staff as it "makes at up to six trips" a day ferrying patients to Cork for x-rays. While the Mallow CT scanner is operational two days a week it leaves a shortfall for the remaining days, which is resulting in the round trips. The second ambulance at Mallow is only used if the first ambulance is in the garage or has broken down.
"The ambulance at Mallow would make at least three trips in the morning and another three to sometimes four trips in the afternoon per day. The trips are now so frequent that the ambulance seems to be only used for this purpose. Staff are even calling it the 'scan wagon," said the source.
The source claimed that HSE management "grill" paramedics if their 'turn around' time exceeds 30 minutes. The turn around refers to when a paramedic takes a patient to a hospital and then returns to base.
Another worry is that 25% of calls in Millstreet have originated outside their catchment area, as staff are spending their time in Cork city, to alleviate the shortfall there.
"If a two car accident had happened anywhere in Duhallow on Saturday there wasn't any paramedic nor ambulance to be found. As per the protocol, only one injured person can be taken to hospital in an ambulance, which always carries two paramedics. "It seems that life and death are being measured out by in figures by the HSE," said the source. "It's only a matter of time before someone is left to die because there isn't staff to attend a road traffic accident. Rosters are leaving a severe shortfall, especially at weekends. This really has to stop.
"While there has been major funding by the HSE in uniforms and protective equipment, new vehicles and training of advanced paramedics, the level of new entrant training is not enough to cover the natural wastage, through retirements and upgrading of existing paramedics to advanced paramedics, " said the source.
In the last 12 months, there has been approximately 48,000 calls to ambulance services in Cork and Kerry, with 50% being emergency calls. The source explained that the ambulance staff cover over 1.5 million kilometres each year in Cork and Kerry, and with 11 ambulance stations in Country Cork the lack of staff is heading towards "absolute disaster".
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