Deputy Denis Naughten has demanded that ambulance service management not “throw in the towel on rural Ireland on foot of a flawed ambulance capacity review”.
He was reacting to the HSE Capacity Review of the ambulance service, which allegedly states that Ireland is too rural for the ambulance service to meet its targets.
It is understood that the report says that Ireland cannot meet its targets for response times because of its rurality, and questions why ambulances bring patients to emergency departments whereas in England patients are first treated at the scene.
“This report, which seems to base its conclusions on England, is not comparing like with like, and suggests that even with resources, only 64 per cent of emergencies can have a first responder at the scene of the incident within eight minutes.
“Yet in Scotland, 74.7 per cent of responses were within the eight-minute target in 2012-13. In Northern Ireland their target for responses within eight minutes is 72.5 per cent, with a minimum target not less than 65 per cent in any area. Yet this report is stating that we cannot achieve that here,” said Deputy Naughten.
Deputy Naughten says that every delayed ambulance potentially leads to the loss of life, and that geography should not determine whether you should live or die.
“It is also amazing that, even though the ambulance response time figures were highlighted at the time that the Government was closing the smaller A&E departments, we were assured that we would have a ‘world class’ ambulance service.
“We now find that these communities are to be completely abandoned and the clear policy agenda across all State agencies is to forget rural Ireland, because saving money is now more important than saving communities or lives,” he concluded.
The HSE has declined to comment on the report, as its review of the National Ambulance Service is still under way.