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92 on-duty ambulances involved in road 'incidents' so far this year

Since 2010, 892 incidents have happened on Irish roads involving National Ambulance Service vehicles.

Image: Sam Boal via Rolling News

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised as a total of 104 incidents involving National Ambulance Service (NAS) vehicles on-duty have occurred so far this year.

Of those 104 incidents, 92 involved on-duty ambulances.

New figures – although they don’t show the nature or results of the incidents – have raised questions about the reliability of the country’s ambulance fleet.

Released to Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly, the HSE data shows that since 2010, 892 incidents have happened on Irish roads involving NAS vehicles.

She told TheJournal.ie that she was concerned that the high figures might be down to vehicle quality.

“I certainly wouldn’t take from ambulance personnel, they do an absolutely fantastic job and I don’t know if some of it might be down to the quality of the vehicles, I hope it’s not down to the quality of the vehicles.

The ambulance staff in this country are absolutely fantastic but this, to me, is something that national ambulance management personnel need to tackle.

From January 2014 to August 2017, ambulances, rapid response vehicles and intermediate care vehicles were involved in 398 of those incidents.

The figures show there has been a year-on-year rise in the number of ambulances involved in accidents while on-duty.

In the eight months so far this year, 92 ambulances have had an incident on the road while in service. This compares to 134 in the 12 months of 2016; 130 in 2015; and 36 in 2014.

National data on individual types of vehicles was not included in the National Incident Management System until 2014.

Capture Source: Louise O'Reilly/HSE

The information provided by the HSE in response to O’Reilly’s parliamentary question did not outline the type or severity of damage that occurred in any of the incidents – something the National Ambulance Service Representative Association Ireland (NASRA) was critical of.

Rise in ambulance call-outs

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, general secretary of NASRA Tony Gregg said the increase in figures year-on-year might be due to the increased call volume to the ambulance service in recent years.

“The volume in relation to calls that the ambulance service has had to respond to has increased year-on-year and that would have an impact on [the figures],” Gregg said.

“Ambulances are travelling further distances, they’re on the road for much longer with the dynamic deployment model we have at the moment. Inevitably, there’s going to be road traffic collisions.”

While it’s not clear how many of the incidents were road collisions, Gregg criticised the HSE for not providing information and education to the public in relation to emergency response vehicles on roads.

“If we’re talking about road collisions, the criticism we would have is in terms of education in relation to public awareness, in relation to how drivers should behave when ambulances are approaching,” he said.

There needs to be a public awareness campaign. It would be very helpful because very often, people can be confused in relation to how they should react when an ambulance is approaching and how emergency drivers behave.

Gregg explained to TheJournal.ie that the ambulance service has policies in place to ensure the safety of patients and staff while en route to and from hospitals. 

When paramedics arrive at a scene the patient in question is evaluated and its determined whether or not the case is “Echo/Delta”, which means life-threatening, and if the sirens need to be turned on.

“Our policy is safety first and if the patient is stable or if the paramedics are able to stabilise the patient and the call isn’t as serious as anticipated, we very often turn lights and sirens off on the return to the hospital out of our regard in relation to safety, because it is paramount,” Gregg said.

Critical condition patients

In terms of road collisions, Gregg said that if the patient is in critical condition the ambulance staff make it their priority to make their way to the hospital.

“We must report the accident to the gardaí and if possible, wait at the scene for the gardaí to arrive,” Gregg explained.

“If the patient is critical and the collision itself hasn’t caused any injuries to any other party and it’s simply a property issue between vehicles, we can continue on and return to the scene.”

Gregg noted that a number paramedics have been injured in recent years while on-duty.

A lot of the time with regard to injuries, it would be the paramedic in the back of the ambulance that would most likely be injured as a result of the collision because they tend to disregard their own safety and if a patient needs assistance or treatment en route, they unbuckle their belt and treat the patient.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the HSE for comment.

Read: Paramedic ‘left colleague stranded 100km from base after disagreement’

More: ‘They have taken away my trust’: Paramedic sprayed with ‘noxious’ liquid brands attackers cowards

 

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