Concerned Connemara residents call for return of second ambulance

The return of a second ambulance to Clifden and the deployment of an ambulance from Leenane Garda Barracks, which is not in use, are two solutions being put forward to rectify the "terribly inadequate" ambulance service in North West Connemara.

The local Ambulance Action Group, which has come up with the proposals, believe they would go some way towards alleviating the situation.

The action group, which held a protest march yesterday (Wednesday ) from Eyre Square to the HSE's office in Shantalla and then on to University Hospital Galway, say the reduction in the number of ambulances in the city and Clifden has had a very "dangerous" and "negative" impact on Connemara people.

The organisation, which was set up by Patricia Keane from Currywongane in Kylemore - together with a group of concerned locals - in October 2014 warns that lives will be lost in Connemara if urgent action is not taken.

"Patients can have a two to three, even four-hour wait, (from call out time to time of arrival at the patient ) for an ambulance," she says.

The group suggested at a meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris that deploying an ambulance from an "old empty" Garda Barracks in Leenane, as has already been done in Loughglynn in Co Roscommon, would help alleviate the problems for the area stretching from Cleggan/Clifden/Ballyconneely/Roundstone to Renvyle/Leenane/Maam/Cornamona/Clonbur.

"The return of the second ambulance to Clifden would go some way towards alleviating the situation also."

In a letter to the HSE the organisation described the current situation as "diabolical". "When we met with Simon Harris, now Minister for Health, earlier this year, he listened to our concerns and showed interest. He seemed to show particular interest in the link we showed him where a young mother describes her experience while she waited lying in a pool of blood, (near death as it transpired ) for the arrival of an ambulance. She was just a few weeks after childbirth.

"There have been several more harrowing cases documented (some, by local doctors ), - including that of a stroke victim who ended up in permanent rehab due to delays in getting him the treatment he required."

She says the argument that the population is low in Connemara has been raised, she says.

"While the population density or sparseness makes providing a service more difficult, this is not the point, as such, as we are still taxpayers entitled to a service and we elect representatives and governments to attend to this. The successful establishment of the Wild Atlantic Way has increased numbers of visitors to the area very much - with a big increase, also, of car accidents - this marketing brings with it a responsibility to cater for people's needs should they require an ambulance."

"Arguments that improvements in Mulranny and Tuam alleviate problems in their own areas is of little consequence to us here. The Castlebar and Galway hospitals are in fact nearer to us than Mulranny and Tuam. The case of Mulranny was recently brought up in the Dail as not contributing much to alleviate anything."

The air ambulance is not a "full solution" either, according to Ms Keane, as there can be difficulties landing, especially at night.

"There was a recent case where there was a one hour and 40 minute wait for an ambulance to reach a very serious heart patient before transferring him to the air ambulance which was on standby."

In the letter to the HSE, her group says the suggestion that the area's local voluntary First Responders could be the solution to the problem, is "particularily insulting".

"Although the First Responders do a wonderful job, it is not really the job of a volunteer crew to look after the needs of the people living in Connemara, nor is it their responsibility to ensure the provision of an ambulance service for the now hundreds of thousands of people visiting Connemara annually. This is the job of the HSE, the National Ambulance Service and the government.

"The First Responders continue to do all they can - we have a very strong group in our area. (Despite hikes in their vehicle insurance premiums due to their using their vehicles – another factor not taken into account ) However, they can only tend to patients and often times try to keep them comfortable or alive while waiting for an ambulance to arrive."

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