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Non-critical patients can now be transported directly to the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) at Ennis Hospital in a bid to ease overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick.

Clare ambulance staff ‘run ragged’ due to resource shortages

AMBULANCE services in Clare came under the spotlight at the monthly meeting of Clare County Council, when a call was made to review the deployment system. 

Councillor Ian Lynch demanded that the Health Minister review the ‘dynamic deployment’ process operated by the National Ambulance Service (NAS), asserting that the system does not work in rural areas. 

“I have been raising this issue since I’ve been elected,” the Independent member said, “and it has been falling on deaf ears. The service is under-funded across the country and to talk about international best practice and dynamic deployment is a smokescreen.

“That’s fine in urban centres, but it doesn’t work in rural Ireland. I have had contact from Waterford, Galway and Mayo on this and if someone who is a critical patient has to wait 90 minutes for an ambulance, it’s clear that the system isn’t working.”

The Kilrush man noted recent tributes to the emergency services by broadcaster Marty Morrissey. On The Late Late show, the RTÉ GAA correspondent spoke movingly of their efforts at the scene of his late mother, Peggy’s fatal road collision.

“We are very lucky in Clare with the support provided by the fire service,” he said, “but it is high time that the minister took responsibility to view how the NAS is working and to ensure that it is resourced.”

Councillor Cillian Murphy said he raises questions about ambulance services at every meeting of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Regional Forum.

“They know it isn’t working,” he said. “Dynamic deployment works if you have five ambulances. It doesn’t work if you only have three. There was an incident recently in West Clare where the fire brigade and first responders covered a massive hole in the ambulance service. The outcome was positive, thankfully, but without those services, it might not have been.”

The Kilkee man also called for an ambulance dedicated to covering West Clare.

Councillor Gerry Flynn said he supported all health-related items on the agenda. “This situation is a sad indictment of any government,” he said.

“Parts of University Hospital Limerick (UHL) are excellent, but for most people, the problem is getting to the point of service. That’s the issue.”

He urged that Clare’s Oireachtas members also be contacted over the motion. “We have never been as well represented at Oireachtas level,” he said. “It is very important to have
them included in this discussion.”

Councillor Liam Grant, who is a firefighter in the Ennistymon area, commended Marty Morrissey for his TV tribute to the emergency services.

“I was there when Marty asked us to join in a prayer for his mother, but the ambulance staff couldn’t stay long, they had to rush away,” he said.

“They are under huge stress being pulled away constantly. Sometimes when an ambulance is called, it’s very far away. Dynamic deployment is not working very well in rural areas.”

Councillor Lynch agreed that NAS members are under pressure. “They are run ragged and absolutely exhausted and drained,” he said. “Imagine what it’s like having to travel from Limerick to Kilrush and back as fast as you can. They stress is huge.”

He asked that the motion also be forwarded to Clare’s Oireachtas members. 


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