05 January 2006

999 calls up 60 per cent: 1 new ambulance to cope

Irelandclick

by Damian McCarney

A paramedic has slammed the Ambulance Service for not providing enough emergency vehicles to meet spiralling demand.

Figures provided by the N I Ambulance Service (NIAS) highlight just how stretched resources are by the rising number of emergency calls.

Over the past decade the number of Ambulance Activations to Emergency Calls in the Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB), which includes Belfast, has risen from 26,817 to 42,950 – a whopping rise of 60.15 per cent.
But over the same period the number of emergency ambulances only increased by one, from 43 to 44.

The figures were replicated across the North as a whole.
In 1994-95 there were 53,851 emergency calls made.

The most recent figures, for 2004-2005 had risen to 87,374, an increase of 62.25 per cent.

Over the same ten-year period the number of emergency ambulance vehicles rose by three from 137 to 140.

A worried paramedic who spoke to the Andersonstown News described the figures as “absolutely horrendous”.

“It is putting a lot of stress on ambulance crews and they are burnt out because demand has increased and there is no real increase in emergency vehicles.

“There is no point having a big trauma centre with doctors, consultants and surgeons if the patients come in dead.

“The first point of contact a member of the general public has is with the ambulance crew, and that is crucial for those patients’ chances of survival,” said our paramedic source.

The figures emerge at a time when the Ambulance Service has come under criticism for its response to a number of high-profile incidents. After December’s tragic Falls Road crash which resulted in the deaths of two people, it took an hour to remove all of the injured people from the scene. An ambulance had to come from as far away as Larne.

On Christmas Eve five people injured in a fire in Derry had to be brought to hospital by fire engine.

On that occasion the nearest ambulance at the time of the call was in Strabane.

A spokesperson for the NIAS said, “The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service provides a 24-hour emergency service based on historical patterns of activity, funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and our services are commissioned by the four area health boards in Northern Ireland.

“Staffing levels and issues of fleet and estates are regularly discussed at various fora involving all stakeholders.

“The relevant outcomes of these meetings are relayed to staff through the Trust’s communications network.

“The Trust recognises and appreciates the important role of staff in the provision of the service and would encourage any staff member who has concerns to bring them to the attention of the Trust’s management team via internal channels.

“Alternatively, concerned staff can approach staff-side representatives.
“NIAS has also commissioned the confidential services of Occupational Health and Staff Care to assist staff members with problems relating to stress and so on.

“Given also that NIAS has been asked, by the Andersonstown News, to answer questions for this particular story on a number of occasions in the past week, the Director of Operations would like to extend an invitation to the Andersonstown News and the concerned paramedic to meet with him, in order that these and any other concerns can be addressed.
“This meeting can be arranged by contacting NIAS HQ.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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