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"I'm not in denial of anything" - Ambulance chief defends 'best in the world' comment

Martin Dunne has stood by his words on a Prime Time investigation which detailed major shortcomings in the National Ambulance Service.

Director of the National Ambulance Service Martin Dunne.
Director of the National Ambulance Service Martin Dunne.
Image: RTÉ/Screengrab

THE DIRECTOR OF the National Ambulance Service has defended a comment he made on last night’s Prime Time programme that “we are probably running the best ambulance service in the world”.

The comment was made on a Prime Time investigation into the Ireland’s ambulance service which detailed a litany of shortcomings including the fact that only one in three people with life-threatening conditions receive an ambulance within targeted times.

“I am not in denial of anything, we are an ambulance service that is going though a huge change,” Martin Dunne told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today.

“The quality of care that we are actually delivering to patients is actually second to none, that’s something I’m very confident of.”

What I’m saying is that we’re starting from a very low base. Within what we have, we’re supplying the very best service we can. The whole thing is about revolving around a patient and providing a service to a patient in a timely and safe fashion.

Dunne was responding to Michael Dixon of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association who said on the same programme that the NAS director must be in denial if he stands by his assessment of the service.

Last night’s programme showed how ambulance controllers often struggle to dispatch an ambulance to an incident because there are not sufficient resources to meet demand and are often required to travel from long distances to reach a patient.

The programme also showed how the number of ambulances in the country has fallen from 320 in 2008 to 265 in 2014. The investigation also showed how ambulances that available are not operating at full capacity on a given day.

image

Ambulance at the scene of a road accident. (Pic: RTÉ/Screengrab)

Dunne said this morning that, although it is true that the number of ambulances have fallen, it doesn’t give a true picture because other vehicles are also available.

“Whilst there has been a slight reduction in emergency ambulances, there has been a huge increase in what we call intermediate care ambulances,” he argued.

Dunne also said that the NAS budget has increased over the last two years and that staffing numbers have increased by 16 per cent over the past six years:

That shows to us that there is a commitment both from the Government and from the HSE that this ambulance service is going through a huge change. For us to deliver that change in a very safe way to the patient we require that staff and that finance and we have been given them.

Rapid response vehicles

Last night’s documentary also contained further revelations regarding ‘on call’ Rapid Response Vehicles which were shown laying idle for significant periods while being used by senior managers.

Dunne said that those driving the €100,000 Rapid Response Vehicles were indeed ‘on call’ and that it  was up to the ambulance controllers to use them if they feel it is needed.

“There are on call for anything the control centres deem them necessary to respond to, up to and including what we call high end emergency calls.”

The controllers explained on last night’s programme that they could see the location of the Rapid Response Vehicles but that they are regularly too far from an incident to be of any value.

“Some of the information that came across last night in the programme was quite interesting and we’ll be reviewing that. And we’re actually glad that some of the staff both past and present gave their views,” said Dunne.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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