An action group has claimed a success in ensuring a largely populated east Cork town will retain its ambulance service.
Youghal is to remain a hub for the emergency service in a new agreement reached with the HSE, unions and the National Ambulance Service (NAS).
The town will see an on-call ambulance replaced by a 24/7 on-duty service in which two ambulances and a first response vehicle will be deployed across the Fermoy-Youghal-Midleton region.
The formal agreement for the east Cork area was reached at a closed meeting in Fermoy. The deal was part of a programme to modernise the national ambulance service.
Those attending included HSE national ambulance service director Robert Norton, NAS regional operator Nicky Glynn, Cork East TDs Dave Stanton (FG) and Sandra McLellan (SF), along with Cork County Council HSE Health Forum representative Cllr Barbara Murray and Save Youghal Ambulance (SYA) Committee chairperson Cllr Tara O’Connell.
Mr Norton said Youghal would provide the hub for the service due to its large volume of call-outs and its proximity to west Waterford amidst new cross-borders imperative.
The ambulances and first response vehicle will be simultaneously dispatched to emergency calls, though the first response vehicle will remain in the area at all times.
The service, co-ordinated from a central exchange, will be sanctioned to cross over with that in Dungarvan when necessary. Three additional paramedics are to be assigned to the region and rostering arranged to limit stress issues. An intermediary care vehicle is also to be introduced for non-emergency transport, which has traditionally been undertaken by ambulance.
In addition to the east Cork re-alignment, a new Intermediate Care Service will be established to support Mallow General Hospital. This will co-exist with the recently inaugurated 24/7 Advanced Paramedic rapid response service for north Cork.
Cllr O’Connell, whose group led on-street demonstrations amid fears Youghal would lose it ambulance, said: “We are very happy with the plans, they will greatly improve the service.
“The plans indicate also that when people make their feelings known, they can influence issues. On behalf of SYA, I thank everyone for their tremendous support during the successful campaign.”
The changes are in accordance with Labour Court recommendations and come amid statistics indicating that life-threatening emergency calls account for less than 2% of all 999 calls.
In line with recommended HIQA performance standards, the first responder should be on the scene within eight minutes about 75% of the time and an ambulance within 19 minutes.
A phase one transition period during which the system is tested is expected to continue for several weeks.
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