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Cllr. Cillian Murphy at Carrigaholt Pier in West Clare. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare ambulance sent to Cork

Councillor calls for changes to dispatch procedures as busy resort left without cover

A KILRUSH-based ambulance was tasked to attend an incident in Cork last summer leaving West Clare without cover during a population explosion from 1,000 to 15,000 locals and holidaymakers in Kilkee.
That’s the assertion made by Councillor Cillian Murphy at a HSE West Forum meeting where he requested the operational procedures for dispatchers in the National Ambulance Service be amended.
The Kilkee councillor wants to ensure an estimated time of arrival by the ambulance to the required location is provided, based on the current real time situation, as a matter of form rather than as a response to a caller request.
Councillor Murphy said people working in the ambulance service are becoming increasingly frustrated with the use of the ambulance as a “taxi service”.
“If the public were given an approximate time for the ambulance to be on site based on how acute the need was, I am not so sure that people wouldn’t make their own way to hospital, if they could.
“I am not saying everyone can, but there are cases where the ambulance is taking too long.
“If someone is waiting two or three hours for an ambulance, that doesn’t fulfil the criteria for an emergency.
“Why don’t we have these figures locally, they are critical for the provision of the services for places like West Clare, which are out in the periphery.”
He claimed average response times “hide more than they reveal” while the whole process is “flawed”.
“The deployment system may tick all the boxes and may stack up in terms of numbers, but practically on the ground it doesn’t work.”
Sean Brady, National Control Operations Manager, National Emergency Operations Centre, National Ambulance outlined in a written response the ambulance service National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) do seek to provide advice, assurances and support to all who call seeking its services.
The centre currently operate the Medical Priority Dispatch System, which has a systemic evidence and research-based methodology that assists their emergency call takers to determinate the level of acuity ranging from minor injury or illness to serious life threatening calls.
The NEOC dispatchers based on the acuity of the patient dispatches the nearest available ambulance to the call. In the event that an ambulance resource is tasked on a lower acuity call and a higher acuity call is received then the dispatcher will seek to divert the resource from the lower acuity call to the higher acuity call in the interest of ensuring that the patient with the most serious condition receives care first.
It is worth noting that this practice occurs regularly and thus it is very difficult and can be misleading to predict a respond time at time of call certainly for the lower acuity calls.
However, in the event that a resource has been redirected and it extends the response time then NEOC do call back patients to reassure, support and reassess the patient’s condition to ensure that they have not deteriorated.

by Dan Danaher

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