Major shake-up of ambulance service to begin

The HSE’s National Ambulance Service is poised to begin the reconfiguration of the Cork and Kerry ambulance service in East Cork.

The NAS confirmed yesterday that a key part of the plan — the elimination of on-call working — has been finalised with unions.

It is working on a detailed implementation plan which will see the system introduced first in the East Cork group of ambulance stations — Fermoy, Midleton, and Youghal.

“No final date has been set for the commencement of the new model until this preparatory work is complete and the proposed changes have been communicated to the local community,” the HSE said.

“During the preparatory stage, which is expected to take a number of weeks, the NAS will put an additional ambulance in place (over and above what is required) to ensure a safe service during the transitional phase.”

The reconfiguration will bring the ambulance service in Cork and Kerry in line with the majority of the country, the HSE said.

The NAS released details of the roll-out of the plan yesterday after campaigners in Youghal claimed success in retaining the town’s ambulance service.

The current ‘on-call’ system sees crews available for work from their own homes, with an average 21-minute response time from home to ambulance station.

The NAS said the new system will eliminate the on-call system and remove the practice where crews have to stand down due to fatigue.

The new ‘on-duty’ system will see paramedics and advanced paramedics rostered as on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with emergency ambulances and rapid response vehicles being strategically located where most likely to be required.

Staff will come on duty in either Youghal or Fermoy, collect their vehicle, and, guided by ambulance control, will rotate and move around the region.

The ambulance service in Cork will also be supported by 24-hour crews in Dungarvan and Clonmel.

“A key positive development in the overall management of the ambulance service nationally is that county bounds no longer exist — in the event of an emergency, the nearest available ambulance responds,” the NAS said.

Three additional para-medics will be assigned to the area, bringing the numbers from 18 to 21.

Two stretcher/four-seater intermediate care vehicles will be introduced in Mallow and Bantry in July for the routine transfer of patients between hospitals and nursing homes.

This will free up the emergency ambulances to deal with emergency calls only.


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