Speaking today, in light of severe criticism from a Connemara GP who was left treating a man with a life threatening, acute illness, at the side of the road while waiting for an ambulance which took fifty seven minutes to arrive, the Galway West – South Mayo Senator says:
“It is quite clear that the ambulance services are completely under resourced and lives are being put at risk on a daily basis because this Government have not provided the necessary resources. This must stop.
“My local GP, Dr. Peter Sloane, has written to Minister Harris and other Oireachtas members to highlight how serious this situation is. He clearly outlines a situation he found himself in last weekend where a man could have died due to a lack of ambulance support. This is not an isolated incident according to the doctor and he mentions a previous case where it took an ambulance two hours to arrive and another where one had to be deployed from Roscommon to an incident.
“The community of North Connemara have also been highlighting similar issues with ambulance cover in their area for the last number of years. They met Minister Harris’ to highlight the dangers and he has kicked to touch completely on the problems they presented. That is simply unacceptable.
“I have raised these issues continually since I was elected to the Seanad in 2011. The government have given us the deaf ear every time.
“Sinn Féin proposed in our 2015 budget submission that as a minimum we need to put an extra eight fully resourced ambulance crews in place nationwide, two in each region. Our proposal would have cost €6m. The government spent more than that just on the administration costs of the now defunct water conservation grant, which shows where their priorities lie.
“We also need to look at the other supports that can be provided to ambulance services in rural areas by the fire service personnel, community ambulances and first responders. We need to utilise all the available resources in the most effective and efficient manner.
“The government and the Minister however, must take full responsibility for any fatalities that happen due to a lack of priority on their part for the resourcing of rural ambulance services”.
Deir Seanadóir Shinn Féin, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh go gcaithfidh an tAire Sláinte freagracht a ghlacadh maidir leis an soláthar easnamhach otharchairr do Chonamara, atá ag cur beatha i mbaol.
Ag labhairt dó inniu, i bhfianaise cáineadh géar atá déanta ar an tseirbhís otharchairr ag Dochtúir Teaghlaigh as Conamara, a fágadh ar leataobh an bhóthair ag an deire seachtaine seo ar feadh caoga seacht nóiméad agus é ag freastal ar othar a bhí i mbaol báis, deir Seanadóir Ghaillimh Thiar – Maigh Eo theas:
“Tá sé rí-shoiléir nach bhfuil dothain acmhainní ar chor ar bith ag na seirbhísí otharchairr agus go bhfuil beatha daoine dhá chur i mbaol ar bhonn laethúil de bharr teip an Rialtais na h-acmhainní cuí a sholáthar. Ní féidir leis seo leanúint ar aghaidh.
“Tá scríofa ag mo Dhochtúir Teaghlaigh áitiúil, Peter Sloane, chuig an Aire Harris agus baill Oireachtais eile, chun aird a tharraingt ar cé chomh tromchúiseach is atá an scéal seo. Léiríonn sé go soiléir eachtra ina raibh sé féin fágtha ag tabhairt aire d’fhear a d’fhéadfadh a bheith básaithe, de bharr easpa fáil ar otharchairr. Ní eachtra aonuaire é seo ach an oiread, faraor, mar go dtagraíonn sé do chás eile nuair a thóg sé dhá uair a chloig ar otharcharr teacht agus geábh eile nuair ar ab éigean do chriú as Ros Comáin teacht chuig láthair éigeandála.
“Tá pobal Chonamara thuaidh ag tarraingt aird ar cheisteanna den chineál seo ina bpobal féin le fada chomh maith Chas siadsan leis an Aire Harris chun na contúirtí a mhíniú agus tá a lámha nite ar fad aige ar na fadhbanna a d’ardaigh siad. Níl sé seo sách maith.
“Tá na fadhbanna seo ardaithe agam féin go leanúnach ó toghadh mí go dti an Seanad i 2011 freisin. An chluais bhodhar atá tugtha ag an Rialtas dom gach uair freisin.
“Mhol Sinn Féin, mar chuid dár buiséad malartach i 2015, go gcuirfí 8 n-otharcharr breise, le foireann cúltaca iomlán ag dul leo, ar fáil ar fud na tíre - péire i ngach réigiúin, mar thús le meath na seirbhíse a chloí. Costas de €6m a bheadh lena leithéid de bheart. Chaith an Rialtas níos mó ná sin chun córas riaracháin a chur in áit chun an deontas caomhnaithe uisce, nár úsáideadh riamh, a riaradh agus léiríonn sin domsa cén áit a bhfuil a gcuid tosaíochtaí siúd.
“Caithfear machnamh chomh maith ar thacaíochtaí eile gur féidir a chur ar fáil le tacú leis na seirbhísí otharchairr sna ceantair tuaithe ar nós foireann na seirbhísí dóiteáin, otharchairr pobail agus lucht céad theagmhála oilte. Caithfear leas a bhaint as gach acmhainn oiriúnach atá againn ar an mbealach is éifeachtaí agus is cumasaí gur féidir.
“Caithfidh an Rialtas agus an tAire, áfach, freagracht a ghlacadh as aon bhás a tharlóidh, mar gheall nach raibh siadsan toilteanach tosaíocht a thabhairt chun acmhainní a chur ar fáil do na seirbhísí otharchairr tuaithe seo ar an gcéad dul síos”.
Note to Editors/Nóta don Eagarthóir:
The full text of Dr. Sloane’s letter is produced below. Tá litir iomlán an Dr. Sloane le feiceáil anseo thíos –
Dear Minister Harris,
I am one of the four GPs in the South Connemara area covering Carraroe, Lettermore, Lettermullen, Rosmuc and the surrounding hinterland. I work on call every 4th night and every 5th weekend. I have been on call all weekend, having started work at 9am yesterday morning (Saturday 27th May) and will finish my 57 hour shift at 5pm on Monday evening (Monday 29th May).
Whilst there is an ambulance base in Carraore, this is frequently unstaffed / unmanned, meaning that there can be inordinate waiting times for an ambulance.
On the evening of Saturday 27th May at approximately 11.30pm a call was placed for a emergency blue light ambulance. This was for an absolute potentially life threatening acute illness in a 60 year old man. If an ambulance had been in Carraroe, it would have been with the gentleman in approximately ten minutes. Unfortunately, as is frequently the case, no ambulance staff were available in Carraroe and the estimated arrival time for the ambulance was 57 minutes. Would you consider it acceptable for a member of your family to be given an estimated time of arrival of an ambulance of 57 minutes for a life threatening emergency anywhere in this State?
As I attended the emergency at the dark side of the road in South Connemara with my self funded equipment and giving the patient oxygen which I have to pay for myself (you may not be aware but NO ONE provides any emergency equipment or supplies to the rural GPs of Ireland - we pay for it out of our own pockets, including oxygen) I wondered, how can an estimated time of arrival for an emergency ambulance of 57 minutes be considered satisfactory?
I have on many occasions waited for considerable periods of time for an ambulance; last year on one occasion the response time was 120 minutes. Once the ambulance had to come from Roscommon to Carraroe (please look at this on the map and explain how this can make any sense). However, last night, I really believed that the patient in question would die at the side of the road in South Connemara. Fortunately the ambulance arrived and the patient was stabilized and transported to UHG.
On foot of the situation last night I felt compelled to write to you as the Minister of Health and highlight that this situation WILL inevitably result in a death at some future juncture. Regardless of how well equipped I can be as a GP, there is only so much I can do. It is also the case that not every emergency is salvageable. However, it is the case that a waiting time of 57 minutes is NOT good enough, nor should you as Minister for Health stand over this or accept it as good enough. Such a waiting time WILL at some point result in a unnecessary death.
I urge you to explore this problem; should the ambulance service blind side with wonderful response time figures, please be assured that these will not reflect the reality on the ground - we frequently experience significant and unacceptable delays.
Mise, le meas,
Dr Peter A Sloane.