Cork council fury over ‘generic response’ from HSE on ambulance removal

County councillors are furious over a run-of-the-mill response from the HSE to the withdrawal of an ambulance service a North Cork area.

The councillors had specifically requested the health authority to explain the decision to remove an ambulance from the Millstreet area. However, the HSE delivered what councillors all agreed was a “generic response”, with no mention of Millstreet.

The ambulance service, in an area over an hour’s drive for Cork University Hospital, has been replaced by an emergency response paramedic whose car cannot convey a patient to a hospital.

The reply from the National Ambulance Service, issued via the HSE, said it “deploys its resources in a dynamic manner” and “uses international standards and protocols”... “which ensures life-threatening situations receive an immediate and appropriate response”.

“It made no mention of Millstreet at all,” said councillor John Paul O’Shea. “This is a generic response from the HSE.”

Before it was axed last month, the Millstreet ambulance handled an average of four calls daily in what is a rural area with a large elderly population. Mr O’Shea said the operation of the service relied on a lot of overtime and, instead of cutting the service, the HSE should clearly engage more paramedics.

“The HSE commissioned the Lightfoot Report which clearly says rapid response paramedic cars are only effective in urban areas,” said Mr O’Shea said.

“This [removal of ambulance cover] is ultimately threatening the lives of people living in the Millstreet area. We specifically mentioned Millstreet in our letter and they didn’t in the reply.”

The Millstreet area is now covered by ambulances based in Listowel, 65km away, as well as Killarney, Macroom, and Kanturk.

Councillors said the deployment of ambulances had a knock-on effect in those areas when they had to respond to emergency calls in Millstreet.

Councillor Kevin Murphy said the HSE had no respect for people. He said county councillors represented rural communities and were entitled to a proper response from a state agency.

Councillors agreed with him they write again to the HSE seeking a proper and immediate reply on the Millstreet issue.

Mr Murphy said it was also about time a senior management member of the HSE was asked to attend a meeting in County Hall to explain such decisions as well as the reasons for continuing cutbacks in services.

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