By David Raleigh
The National Ambulance Service has been asked to examine claims that no trained paramedics turned up for work at its base in Limerick City on two nights last week.
An ambulance whistleblower has claimed that absenteeism within the ambulance service is putting patients lives "at risk".
The whistleblower claimed no trained paramedics arrived at the Limerick City ambulance base for their rostered 8pm-8am shift, on August 10 through 11, and for the same shift on August 12 through 13.
The source said three student paramedics who are working on placement with the ambulance service presented themselves at the city base in Dooradoyle at 8pm on August 12, but could not go to calls because no trained paramedic had reported for duty.
The whistleblower said one intern was then assigned to Newcastle West to work with an paramedic on duty there; the second intern was assigned to Ennis; and the third intern waited for a paramedic, who was on duty in Newcastle West, to drive 40km to Limerick City so they could provide cover to 150,000 people in the city and east of the county.
Intern paramedics cannot go out on the road in an ambulance without a trained paramedic.
“Basically at 8pm last Monday and Wednesday night, no trained paramedic turned up for work in Limerick City. That can't continue. It's causing too many of these splits in crews assigned to other areas,” the source said.
“It has to be putting lives at risk,” they added.
“It happened last Monday night too. A crew in Ennis had to split up and one went to Limerick when no paramedic reported for duty at 20:00hrs," the source said.
“Morale is nil,” the whistleblower added.
In a statement the National Ambulance Service said: “Short term absenteeism is a challenge for any service, and where this occurs the National Ambulance Service request that staff report to another station for work to ensure continuity of service.”
“It should be noted that the National Ambulance Service has one of the best staff attendance records but absenteeism at short notice can still cause some operational difficulties,” it added.
The NAS said “normal levels of service” were operational in Limerick on both nights.
It said an “emergency ambulance” carrying one intern and one paramedic “would have been supported by other crews in the area should the need arise”.
"The National Ambulance Service monitor the level of calls and the resources needed in each area on a 24/7 basis," the NAS added.
“While we have an established level of service in each area this can change from time to time based on demand and staffing availability.”
“Patient needs are met through providing the most appropriate and closest resource based on clinical prioritisation,” it said.
A spokesperson for the HSE said they were awaiting a response from the NAS regarding claims no trained paramedics reported for work.