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Ambulance cuts "putting lives at risk"

A Dublin TD has said that reduction in ambulance services in Dublin could put lives at risk.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A DUBLIN TD has raised concerns about ambulance services in Dublin.

Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has said that cuts to ambulance services in Dublin city, county and its hinterland “will inevitably put lives at risk and lead to longer response times from a vastly reduced service”.

He made the comments after he was told that on Tuesday the Tallaght area was to be short of an ambulance at Airton Road between the hours of 7pm and 7am.

Deputy Crowe said:

[That] night the Swords area was without a HSE ambulance between the hours of 7am and 7pm. [That] evening the traditional HSE ambulance cover from Airton Road in Tallaght [was] missing.

This reduced service is the result of official strategic decisions on the part of the HSE and is happening because of funding cutbacks.

Traditional HSE ambulance service coverage in areas like Maynooth, Kildare, Balbriggan, Baltinglass and Arklow are also going to be reduced in the coming days.

Deputy Crowe said that this will place additional pressure on existing services and will make response times even longer.

Investigation

The TD wrote to Health Minister Dr James Reilly about the issue, and received a response from Reilly’s office saying the Minister would investigate his concerns.

This move comes in the wake of a reduction of the working week for ambulance staff from 40 hours to 39 hours.

Deputy Crowe said that “the HSE will claim that the fire brigade service or a first responder car with one individual in it can provide adequate cover” but he wants to know if the service is “sufficient or able to cover the growing population of Dublin and its hinterland”.

He told TheJournal.ie that he felt resources are being stretched and that this could lead to “seriously injured or ill people being left without assistance”.

He claimed:

This roster cut and the gamble involved will inevitably lead to the loss of someone’s life. Ambulance staff are now not being covered if off sick or on annual leave. This is also putting additional pressure on the limited service.

Deputy Crowe has asked the Health Minister to convene a meeting of the HSE to discuss this matter.

HSE

The HSE said that in line with the Croke Park Agreement, the Labour Court has issued a recommendation directing the National Ambulance Service and Trade Unions representing paramedical staff to address some overtime inefficiencies within its rostering arrangements.

These changes to rosters are being addressed under the Croke Park Agreement and will result in the same levels of service and manpower but at lower costs to the taxpayer.

It added that there is no dispute involving the ambulance station in Tallaght.

The HSE said that one of the key inefficiencies identified in the National Ambulance Service was rostering arrangements to reflect the reduction of weekly working hours from 40 to 39 arising from the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

While discussions are still ongoing in some locations there will be no reduction in manpower, however, current overtime levels will be reduced.

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