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Call for airport ambulance cover review

Champion Chatter

ALARM bells are ringing in Clare following the revelation that an off-duty senior ambulance officer had to travel from Tralee to Shannon Airport to attend a serious incident, which resulted in the hospitalisation of 12 people, last month.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has been requested to review its ambulance cover for major emergencies after a senior officer had to complete a round trip of more than 250km to deal with medical casualties arising out of an emergency landing at Shannon on August 31.

United Airlines flight UA880, with 207 passengers and a crew of 13 on board, had to make an emergency landing at the airport due to “severe and unexpected turbulence”. The Boeing 767-300 jet was flying from Houston in the US to London Heathrow.

When the aircraft landed, initial assessment was carried out by the National Ambulance Service and airport first responders. It was subsequently confirmed by the HSE that 12 passengers, nine adults and three children, were taken to University Hospital Limerick for treatment.

Following official confirmation that there is no ambulance officer on-call system in the Mid-West to deal with incidents such as emergency landings or major traffic accidents, Councillor Ann Norton called for a full review of ambulance staffing levels at a HSE West Forum meeting in Galway on Tuesday. She criticised the non-availability of a local ambulance officer to manage the emergency response in the airport last month.

She said it was not good enough that an off-duty ambulance officer had to travel almost two hours to attend such a serious incident.

Stating that emergency landings are a regular occurrence at Shannon, she said all available back-up ambulance resources should be available to respond to any medical emergencies that may occur.

“We are constantly told by the HSE that patient safety is paramount. If patient care is paramount, why isn’t an ambulance officer rostered or on call to respond to incidents like the serious one in Shannon last August. It is not good enough to have to ask an ambulance officer to travel from Tralee to attend a serious incident in Shannon Airport,” she said.

West National Ambulance Service area operations manager Paudie O’Riordan told the meeting that there are a total of three officers based in the Mid-West. This includes an assistant chief ambulance officer, who has overall responsibility for the Mid-West, and two operations resource managers reporting to him.

“There is no officer on-call system in the Mid-West. National Emergency Operations Control attempted to call the officers who were off duty but were unable to do so but an off-duty officer from Tralee responded,” he said.

He stated that officers in the Mid-West have regularly responded to calls at Shannon Airport while off duty.

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