AMBULANCES are not responding to life-threatening incidents in Cork city and county quickly enough, officials figures have revealed.
The HSE has confirmed to the Evening Echo that the average response time for life-threatening calls – including cardiac and respiratory arrest - in the city was 12 minutes and 34 seconds.
In the county, the average response time for life-threatening emergencies is 18 minutes and 34 seconds.
These fall way short of Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) target times of seven minutes and 59 seconds set in 2014.
With 14 ambulances serving the entirety of Cork during weekdays and 12 at night time and weekends, concerns have been raised that patients in life-threatening situations are not being reached quickly enough.
"It is important that the HSE explains why the HIQA targets for ambulance response times are not being met in Cork,” Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath told the Evening Echo.
“The ambulance staff do a wonderful job and it has to be a priority to ensure that the ambulance service has the resources it needs to respond to all calls - but especially life-threatening incidents - in the quickest possible time," he added.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the average waiting times are purely down to a lack of resources and are putting lives at risk.
“A mere three emergency ambulances in Cork city at weekends is not acceptable. The root cause of the problem here is lack of ambulances and trained ambulance staff.
“This is a legacy of the health cuts in the austerity years. The cuts are being reversed now but they are not being reversed sufficiently quickly. Investment needs to be stepped up before more lives are lost,” he added.
The National Ambulance Service said targeted response times are not entirely indicative of performance.
“[The] sole reliance on response times is restrictive and a poor reflection of ambulance service work. Most jurisdictions are now preparing to transition to clinical outcome indicators in conjunction with Key Performance Indicators (KPI) as a true reflection of the work of a modern ambulance service.
The National Capacity Review, carried out by UK consultancy firm Lightfoot Solutions in 2016 found that HIQA targets were difficult to meet because of the rural nature of Ireland and stated that the targets could be met in 60.6% of cases if the NAS is fully resourced.
However, in a review of their targets published last year, HIQA found the target time of below eight minutes is being met in life-threatening non-cardiac and respiratory cases just 27.4% of the time and in calls related to cardiac arrest and respiratory cases 51.2% of the time.