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Irish ambulance crews lend support in Northern Ireland amid strained health services

The Irish National Ambulance Service is working with crews in the North over the weekend.

Image: Paul Reid

PARAMEDICS FROM IRELAND’S ambulance service worked in Northern Ireland last night to give support across the border. 

Crews from the Irish National Ambulance Service (INAS) are working with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service over the weekend to provide support for patients as health services in the North are put under pressure.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said that the ambulance service was ”contacted by our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) requesting support across the weekend due to extraordinary circumstances”.

“All of our teams worked well together and our plan is to support our colleagues in the NIAS to maintain service delivery and pre-hospital care during a particularly challenging time for them,” the HSE said.

Chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid tweeted last night that “in Belfast, crews from the Irish National Ambulance Service [are] working alongside colleagues from the Northern Ambulance Service”.

“People’s health taking priority,” Reid said.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has indicated the pressure that it has been under in recent days. 

In statements on social media, the service has advised the public that it will prioritise calls to handle those that relate to the most serious illnesses or injuries.

“The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is extremely busy at the moment. We ask you for your patience,” the statement said.

“We will prioritise calls to provide the quickest response to the most seriously ill or injured.”

“Please consider other options, but if you need to call 999, please do not hesitate. Less urgent calls will face longer waits for an ambulance response.”

Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Steve Aiken thanked the INAS crews for their support in the North on social media.

“Many thanks to @AmbulanceNAS @HSELive coming to help @NIAS999 during this unprecedented crisis,” Aiken said.

“Great to see this very positive example of North/South cooperation,” he said

Earlier this week, queues of ambulances formed outside some hospitals in Northern Ireland with the health service under strain.

Hospitals in Northern Ireland have frequently operated at or above capacity during the pandemic, meaning that the demand for hospital beds is higher than the available occupancy.

On Thursday, the Northern Ireland Executive agreed on another lockdown starting on 26 December to last for six weeks.

It is expected that measures will include the closure of non-essential retail and close-contact services, and the hospitality sector will only be allowed to operate takeaway services.

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First Minister Arlene Foster has said that Northern Ireland is facing a “very difficult situation with Covid-19 spreading at an alarming rate”.

“We’re facing a great deal of difficulty across Northern Ireland, people need to recognise that and need to recognise the fact that they have to ensure personal responsibility in their action over the next period of time people need to cut down their social contacts in order to protect themselves and their families,” Foster said.

“They really need to take that to heart because unfortunately that has not been the case, and we need to very much up our game so that we can push for the finish line,” she said.

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