By Pat Flynn
An ambulance had to be sent 50 kilometres from Ennis to East Clare on Wednesday because local paramedics had been redeployed to a call in Limerick.
The National Ambulance Service (NAS) received an emergency call for a woman in her 60’s with "severe shortness of breath" but there was no ambulance available at the area ambulance base in Scarriff.
The base is just 13 kilometres from the scene, but the local crew had been taken out of the area to attend a call in Limerick City leaving East Clare without any emergency cover.
An ambulance was sent 50 kilometres on a 40-minute drive from Ennis to attend to the woman whose condition had begun to deteriorate and it is understood she went into cardiac arrest.
An advanced paramedic in a rapid response vehicle (RRV) was also sent to the scene from Ennis.
The Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) air ambulance was requested to airlift the woman from the the local GAA pitch to University Hospital Limerick for treatment. Her condition is not known.
The ambulance service has been struggling to cover shifts in Clare for over 12 months while large areas of the county are regularly left without emergency cover.
On one day last week, the only available resource in the entire county was a rapid response vehicle which is staffed by a lone advanced paramedic.
Clare Fianna Fáil deputy Timmy Dooley said: "If there was any doubt about this government’s lack of commitment to rural Ireland then the continued underfunding of the ambulance service in Clare surely proves that they have abandoned our rural communities.
"In opposition they opposed reconfiguration of health services for political gain but in government they support the principal but refuse to provide the funding. There are 20 paramedic positions left unfilled in Clare, and if this continues then undoubtedly, lives will be lost,” Deputy Dooley added.
Kilrush member of Clare County Councillor Ian Lynch has already called for an urgent independent review of the National Ambulance Service particularly in Clare.
"Having to wait for 40 minutes for a response is not emergency ambulance cover, it’s playing Russian roulette with lives. I am outraged that all the warnings given to the HSE and National Ambulance Service have been completely and utterly ignored,” he said.
On Tuesday, the entire West Clare area was left without an emergency ambulance for 7 hours before the county’s only rapid response vehicle (RRV) was taken off the road and a crew member sent back to the area to crew an ambulance.
The National Ambulance Service is expected to issue a response later today.