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'Very high demand' for ambulance services in the Dublin region, HSE says

The health service has said those calling for non-urgent or non-life threatening emergencies “may experience delays”.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Dirk Hudson

Updated Jan 13th 2022, 5:32 PM

THE HSE HAS said that the emergency ambulance services of the Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) are experiencing “a large volume of calls and requests” for emergency ambulances in the region at this time.

In a statement, the health service said that those calling for non-urgent or non-life threatening emergency “may experience delays in getting an ambulance due to calls from other patients whose emergency care needs have been triaged at a higher level”.  

“The emergency service requests that patients who no longer require an ambulance, to contact us and let us know, so that we can ensure that our limited resources can be diverted to other life threatening calls,” it said.

“The emergency ambulance services operate a priority dispatch system to ensure that our paramedics and ambulances are dispatched to the most seriously ill and injured patients first in order of their priority.”

At a press briefing this afternoon, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said that ambulance services are under pressure everywhere, not just in Dublin.

“In fact they’ve been under more pressure in some other areas,” she noted.

O’Connor said the ambulance services are being impacted by wider issues in the hospital system.

“Where hospitals are under pressure they get impacted too, because the handover of patients at emergency departments can slow down. If we can’t move patients through our emergency departments, it all backs up. So, the whole unscheduled care pathway is impacted,” she explained.

O’Connor added that the HSE has been working very well with voluntary ambulance providers and she added that staff returning to work following Covid absences will improve the situation.

All callers are advised to ring back if the patient’s condition changes or deteriorates.

Chief Fire Officer of Dublin Fire Brigade Dennis Keeley said: “We are experiencing very high demand for ambulances at present. We want to ensure that the sickest, that is, the most critical patients get an ambulance in a timely way. We thank you for your understanding in helping us serve the sickest in our community.”

Robert Morton, director of the National Ambulance Service, asked people to “please bear with us as we continue to be extremely busy.”

Our staff continue to work incredibly hard trying to deliver normal health services and respond to the pandemic. The HSE is incredibly thankful for the continuing efforts of all of our staff in what remains challenging circumstances.

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It comes after the NAS last week cancelled all annual leave for the next three weeks as the system tries to deal with serious pressures caused by Covid.

The service is currently at Level 3 in its Capacity Action Programme. This means that there are not enough ambulances to fill demand.

The HSE and the NAS are now looking to external providers, such as private firms, to help deal with the pressure on the system.

Staff within the NAS were informed that all annual leave which had been booked for the next three weeks have now been cancelled. 

The ban on annual leave will be reviewed once the service exits Level 3, according to a directive issued to staff. 

The HSE would not comment directly on the order cancelling leave.

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Jane Moore

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