Wicklow TD highlights ‘potentially fatal’ gaps in local ambulance services

TD Jennifer Whitmore raised issues about Wicklow's ambulance services at the Dáil this week.

Eoin Mac RaghnaillWicklow People

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Wicklow Deputy Jennifer Whitmore pointed out the “significant gaps” in the ambulance service provided in Wicklow, particularly in the Arklow and Baltinglass districts.

Wicklow Councillors have expressed serious concerns about their county’s insufficient National Ambulance Service coverage lately, which does not operate between 7 a.m and 7 p.m on Tuesdays in Arklow, where the gap in service has been labelled “the difference between life or death” by Cllr Sylvester Bourke.

Broaching the hot topic in the Dáil, Deputy Whitmore said: “In both these stations (Arklow and Baltinglass) there is one shift a week which is not covered by the service and instead they have to rely on coverage from neighbouring towns or counties.

“People have called me and told me about their fear of what could happen if they need an ambulance in Arklow. There are no ambulances on Tuesday for up to 12 hours a day. This is not a sustainable situation.”

“For residents in Baltinglass, they have the same situation on a Monday. The nature of medical emergencies is such that it is potentially fatal to not have an ambulance service running at these times.

“These gaps are a result of decisions in 2010 by the HSE to drop overtime cover. Rather than increase staffing numbers to make up the difference, the HSE decided to leave them without cover. This situation has been impacted further by the recent fire at Wexford Hospital which cannot currently provide the same level of services it did before.”

In response to the Minister’s reply that ambulance coverage in Wicklow was under review, the Social Democrats TD said: “While I welcome the Minster confirming this situation is under review, Arklow and Baltinglass still do not have the cover they need.

“When the decision was taken in 2010, we were in a very different economic situation, but the cuts made then have left two very large towns in Wicklow without a fully serviced local ambulance service for 13 years.

“We are told day in and day out by the government that we have growth in our economy, that we are a stand out in Europe – well it is time for that economic growth to be poured into essential local health services.

“Other stations which experienced cuts during the same period have seen the restoration of staffing levels to allow for full 24/7 coverage. Why have Arklow, Baltinglass and Wicklow Town been forgotten about?

“I will continue to raise this issue and I will follow up with the National Ambulance Service on this matter until it is resolved.”