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'Level 3 declared': HSE to draft in private companies to fill ambulance demand

The HSE has confirmed it’s gone to Level 3 in the ambulance service’s capacity action plan.

THE NATION’S AMBULANCE service (NAS) is officially at its capacity as management issued a rare Level 3 capacity warning to all units.

The HSE has confirmed this evening that it is looking to external providers to fill the gap in the system. 

Those on sick or annual leave who are able to work are being asked to return to work ASAP in order to relieve pressure on the system. 

According to messages sent to paramedics, seen by The Journal, the ambulance system is under “major pressure” and a “NASCAP Level 3 has been declared” – effectively meaning there are not enough ambulances and personnel to cover demand right now. 

Management within the NAS are now looking for help from the private sector as well as the army to relieve the extreme pressure on the system, informed sources have told this publication, it is understood. 

The Journal reported yesterday that ambulance crews were on Tuesday night ordered to avoid bringing patients to Wexford General Hospital after the hospital’s emergency department was overrun with patients.

“Unless an urgent and workable plan is produced by the HSE, we will continue to see incidents like this well into January and February,” Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said. 

“Incidents like this are inevitable due to a lack of a plan B from the HSE when it comes to hospital capacity,” she said.

Pressure on the entire health system continues to grow with the spread of the Omicron variant as well as traditional winter demand for services. 

The HSE confirmed that it has gone to Level 3.  

A spokesperson said: The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has a surge plan in place which represents a national approach to capacity planning intended to enable a consistent sector approach to patient safety, risk mitigation as well as system and resilience understanding at times of escalating pressure.

“It provides systems partners and stakeholders with a clear visual representation of the issues faced and actions being considered and taken.  The plan has four levels of escalation.

“Today, in response to significant levels of demand, which is also affected by Covid-19, NAS has escalated its surge response to Level 3 which includes seeking support from external service providers.

“NAS are asking the public to help us help you by considering all care options available and only call 999 if it is an emergency.”

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