Investment in ambulance service critical to delivery of primary care

SIPTU has called on the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, to immediately release the capacity review into the National Ambulance Service.

Speaking today at the Labour Party Conference in Killarney, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The creation of 50 paramedic positions in the West of Ireland is a step in the right direction.

“However, what is required is the publication of the capacity review of the National Ambulance Service.

“Our members are deeply concerned about the direction of the ambulance service and demanded a capacity review in February 2014. One year later we are still waiting.”

Paul Bell added: “If the National Ambulance Service is to function at the level that the HIQA is demanding, and the public and communities deserve, then the Government needs to seriously invest in recruitment and resources.

“The time has come for the Government to provide leadership and the public with confidence that the National Ambulance Service is safe, fully resourced and fit for purpose”

SIPTU demand HIQA immediately inspect overcrowded hospitals

SIPTU has called on the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to immediately inspect hospitals around the country where patient and staff safety is threatened by severe overcrowding. 

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “SIPTU members are very concerned that there is no plan to address the worrying trend that has been developing since September of patient safety, dignity and care being threatened by severe overcrowding”.

He added that due to the HSE being unable to confirm that the identified hospitals are safe for both patients and staff the HIQA must investigate urgently.

“Our members are asking why, despite this growing national emergency in our hospitals, the statutory body tasked with ensuring levels of patient safety are maintained, HIQA, has not begun inspecting these facilities. These hospitals are clearly overrun and understaffed. Our members are calling on HIQA to put the public’s mind at ease by investigating whether or not these hospitals are safe for patients and staff.

“SIPTU members are astonished that this crisis has been allowed to get to this stage. Let’s be very clear we are not here because of a winter vomiting bug or a flu epidemic. We are here because if you strip away 2000 hospital beds through cuts, if you don’t recruit and retain nurses, health care assistants and emergency personal, you end up with the kind of dysfunctional health service that our members are working in and patients are being treated in.” 

HIQA report challenging but achievable

SIPTU members in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) and Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) are studying the recommendations contained in the HIQA “Review of pre-hospital emergency care services” which they have described as “challenging but achievable”.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “In its 12 recommendations the HIQA review group brings clarity to many of the areas which our members in the National Ambulance Service have identified as a cause for concern over a long period of time. The recommendations will be challenging in both how they are applied within the ambulance service. However, there is a concern that the recommendations are made without the benefit of viewing the, as yet unpublished, national capacity review of the ambulance service commissioned by the HSE. It is also evident that the implementation of the recommendations will require a commitment from the Government for additional resources”.

He added: “Recommendation 7 requires detailed clarification as it suggests that the key performance indicators in life threatening calls must take into account the difference in ambulance response times in a urban or rural setting”.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Brendan O’Brien said: “SIPTU members in the Dublin Fire Brigade refute any suggestion by HIQA that ambulance services can be substantially improved without greater funding being made available. There is information which shows the DFB Ambulance service has a very high efficiency rate. Also, we welcome the fact that the report highlights the DFB’s existing clinic audit procedures. This indicates that patient outcome will now become a key performance indicator.

“We also agree with the call for a proper Service Level Agreement for the ambulance service, which must include the provision of direct funding for the DFB Ambulance Service. In relation to the HIQA report highlighting the 14,000 queued emergency calls received by DFB in 2013, it should be noted that during times when demand outstrips ambulance capacity DFB fire appliances staffed by qualified paramedics are utilised in life threatening emergencies”.