Calls have been made for enhanced resources for the ambulance service after a family in Cork were forced to wait almost three hours for an ambulance.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould said he was contacted by constituents who had called an ambulance for a family member on Tuesday evening following advice from their GP. The patient could not be transferred by car as medical care may have been required on the journey.
Mr Gould said the family had been waiting for over two hours when they contacted him and, having called the dispatch personally, he said he was informed that there was “no ambulance in Cork County at the time”.
“This is absolutely scandalous,” he said.
At the time of the call, the HSE said they were experiencing “very high demand for 999 services for patients with immediately life-threatening injuries and illnesses” which meant that some patients had longer waits.
Following the incident, Mr Gould has called on the government to "fully and properly" resource the ambulance service in Cork. Mr Gould recently met with medical professionals who work within the ambulance service in Cork who, he said, are “under-resourced, underfunded and understaffed”.
“People are sick to their teeth hearing political parties who have been in power for over a decade claim that they can’t fix the crises in health and housing overnight,” he said.
“A vulnerable person left waiting three hours for an ambulance is a shocking indictment of our health service.”
The HSE said that not all 999 calls for ambulances are emergencies and response times targets, which are set out in the HSE’s National Service Plan, apply to ECHO (life-threatening cardiac or respiratory arrest) or DELTA (life-threatening illness or injury, other than cardiac arrest) calls only.
As demand can exceed available resources, 999 calls are prioritised to ensure those patients with life-threatening injuries or conditions receive the fastest response possible. If a 999 call is not time-critical, then during busy periods, these calls will wait longer for a response.
“Thankfully, it remains the case that the majority of 999 calls do not relate to life-threatening emergencies,” the HSE said.
It added that it welcomed the opportunity to engage with service users to understand their experience and to see if an opportunity for service improvement exists.