Nearly two out of every three 999 calls in Westmeath are unnecessary, and could have been dealt with without an ambulance.
Also, it seems Tuesday nights are the safest time of the week in Westmeath, according to figures released from the National Ambulance Service (NAS ).
According to the NAS, only one ambulance is needed in both Mullingar and Athlone to cover emergency needs between the hours of 6pm and 6am between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
This was revealed at the most recent meeting of the Dublin-Mid Leinster regional health forum in response to a question from Cllr Mick Dollard.
Also Mullingar can survive with just one emergency response vehicle on Monday nights.
At nearly all other times both towns are provided for with two ambulances, except during the daytime of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Mullingar when three are available.
Oliver Reilly, NAS operations manager, told the meeting that fewer than one in 50 of all 999 (or 112 ) calls are for life threatening situations, whilst a little over one third of them (37 per cent ) are deemed “potentially life threatening”.
He also pointed out that 60 per cent of all calls to his service “are neither life threatening, nor potentially life threatening”, and should be dealt with by a GP, MIDOC, or A&E.
These numbers are configured in accordance with HIQA’s new performance standards which are based on international evidence and experience.
“The utilisation of these resources is carried out on a national and area basis, as opposed to a local basis. This ensures the nearest appropriate resource is dispatched to the location of any incident. In the Westmeath area this can also be achieved by resources responding from Longford, Edenderry, and Tullamore,” said Oliver Reilly, operations manager with the NAS, appropriately based in Naas, Co Kildare.
He went on to point out that ambulances from outside the Midlands can be moved to areas where cover is required, if and when this situation arises.
He pointed out that the air ambulance service flying out of Custume Barracks in Athlone for the last 18 months is in addition to these services.
“The NAS has implemented a priority dispatch system in all its centres which utilises internationally recognised protocols and standards to ensure that life threatening situations receive an immediate and appropriate response, which means less acute situations will be prioritised accordingly,” said Mr Reilly.