Taoiseach Enda Kenny outraged people in East Cork when he insisted in the Dáil yesterday that ambulance services in the area have been “enhanced and improved” — despite none being available for a child who fell from an upstairs window.
One mother of two, Sabrina Lyons, who organised a protest in Midleton earlier this week, said “services were far from enhanced and that people who shouldn’t be dying were dying as a result”. She said locals would not give up their demands for an ambulance to be reinstated in Midleton, and said another demonstration was planned for Saturday.
“We need everyone’s support to make them realise that this new system isn’t working.”
Midleton toddler Vakaris Martinaitis, who fell from an upstairs window, had to be rushed to hospital in a neighbour’s car on May 6 after callers to emergency services were told no ambulance was available.
Opposition parties expressed disbelief at the Taoiseach’s remarks during leader’s questions.
TDs also demanded to know why no health minister was present for a later special Dáil debate on the death — instead, housing minister Jan O’Sullivan answered for the Government.
Mr Kenny said roster overhauls and changes that saw ambulances no longer tied to a particular station had been good for the service.
“There has been no loss for the national ambulance service in East Cork — in fact it has been enhanced.”
Mr Kenny said he would present the National Ambulance Service review into Vakaris’s death to the Dáil when it was completed.
Nine months ago, ambulance services in East Cork were reconfigured, with Youghal, Midleton, and Fermoy now covered by two emergency ambulances, on dynamic deployment where needed, and a rapid response vehicle, from a base at Youghal Hospital.
In March, the HSE rejected claims it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to respond to the drowning in Midleton’s Owenacurra river of James Casey Butler, aged 7.
The HSE said an advance paramedic was on the scene within seven minutes and an ambulance arrived 19 minutes after James fell into the river. He died in hospital a day later.
In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Kenny said paramedics last year “successfully changed” to 24/7 duty rota after previously responding to calls after 8pm from their homes four nights a week working on call.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said people in the area had “a feeling of anxiety” at what would happen next.
“In some cases, only one ambulance is available at night and if it is on one mission it cannot be on a second mission,” he said.
A special debate on Vakaris’ death saw Sinn Féin’s Cork East TD Sandra McLellan warn: “The situation has now reached a crisis point and lives are at risk as a result. People don’t believe they have an enhanced service.”
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