Healy-Rae: Review ambulance system now

The health standards watchdog has been asked to carry out a review of the ambulance call-out system amid continuing concerns over confusion in the service in the Kerry area.

Healy-Rae: Review ambulance system now

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has made a formal complaint to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) about the centralisation of ambulance control services.

A number of cases of ambulances being sent to the wrong place in response to emergency calls in the Kerry area have already been highlighted this year.

“People have to be confident that when they call an ambulance it reaches the right location in the shortest possible time,’’ Mr Healy-Rae said.

He is seeking an independent review of the centralised call-out arrangements. Earlier this year, the call centre for ambulances was closed and moved to Townsend St, Dublin.

A Hiqa audit might help to restore confidence in the system, he maintained.

Mr Healy-Rae and others have previously called for a return to the locally controlled, call-out system. However, Health Minister James Reilly has said there are no plans to carry out any review.

Meanwhile, Killarney mayor Paddy Courtney has warned of loss of lives because of a HSE proposal to replace a secondary emergency ambulance in the area with an intermediary care vehicle. The HSE said there will be an extra 126 resource hours in place between Killarney, Kenmare and Caherciveen under new rostering and restructuring arrangements.

But Mr Courtney claimed that while Kenmare and Caherciveen might be relieved that their 24-hour service remained, they should be aware that their ambulance will be used as a standby cover for Killarney when a second emergency ambulance is needed.

Senior HSE management recently outlined plans for the service at a meeting with politicians and health service professionals.

But Mr Courtney, who has called a public meeting on the reconfigured service on Monday night next, said little or no opportunity was given to discuss the presentation or its implications.

He said people at the HSE meeting were “blinded’’ by figures and called on the public to speak out about the issue.

“When the figures presented were broken down, it was blatantly obvious Killarney will be at a loss when it comes to ambulance cover for serious incidents,’’ he said.

According to the HSE, a second ambulance is unsustainable in Killarney as it is manned through overtime hours, with routine patient transfers taking up a disproportionate amount of ambulance time.

Mr Courtney argued that Killarney has a special case as its population increases during the tourist season.

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