A proposed site to facilitate the construction of a new ambulance base in Athlone is unlikely to meet the necessary requirements, a spokesperson for the National Ambulance Service has confirmed.
Speaking this week, Mr William Merriman, Director of Operations for the National Ambulance Service, stated that the current plan, to build a new station adjacent to the Primary Care Centre in Clonbrusk would have to be reassessed noting that the “size of the proposed location was unlikely to meet our needs and alternative site options would now have to be addressed”.
Mr Merriman’s views were expressed in response to a parliamentary question posed to the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, by local Fianna Fáil Deputy, Robert Troy, who had sought an update on the expansion of the ambulance service in Athlone.
In a detailed response to Deputy Troy the National Ambulance Service noted that the call demand in the Midlands region had increased significantly over recent years without a corresponding increase is resources, similar to many regions across the country.
Mr Merriman stated that the increase in ambulance demand was due to a number of factors.
“The population in Athlone has increased significantly in recent years and is estimated to reach 40,000-50,000 by 2040. This population is also ageing, similar to the overall population.
“The development of Center Parcs and the Direct Provisions Centre in the vicinity has impacted upon call demand, while the expansion of the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS ) is also a contributing factor.
“Ongoing growth in tourism and industry in Athlone and the Midlands region has put increased pressure on ambulance demand,” Mr Merriman commented.
Mr Merriman confirmed that the National Ambulance Service remained committed to building a new ambulance station in Athlone and to increasing staffing levels in the town to meet the increase in demand.
“We also intend to increase the level of our emergency ambulance service, particularly on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and it is envisaged that the region will benefit from the deployment of Community Paramedics in the near future.,” Mr Merriman added.
Deputy Troy welcomed the “detailed response” from the National Ambulance Service and noted that it was extremely necessary and vital that work to identify an alternative location for the new ambulance station in Athlone was conducted promptly.
“The work which ambulance staff conduct, predominantly in extenuating circumstances must be recognised and so that end it is necessary that we move at a swift pace to ensure the appropriate infrastructure is in place to accommodate the needs of employees and patients.
“The chosen location for the new ambulance base in Athlone must be future-proofed. We do not wish to see to a facility compactly constructed on a location just because that site is in the ownership of the HSE.
“What is crucially important is that an appropriate location is found, it is future-proofed to accommodate the facility now, but it can also be expanded in years to come.
“We need the HSE to move this along at pace. If they have decided that Clonbrusk is not the appropriate location then what they need to do is clearly and urgently identify an alternative site so that we can continue to move forward with this development.
“The HSE, at present, has a property team in place with the expertise, qualifications and local knowledge to identify an alternative site, put in planning permission, and ensure the delivery of a facility that is very much needed in Athlone,” Deputy Troy concluded.