A person in North Cork had to wait three hours for an ambulance to arrive to take them to hospital, while in another case in recent months a person had to wait two and a half hours, it has been claimed.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North West Michael Moynihan raised the issue in the Dáil where he detailed instances of ambulances travelling to the Duhallow area coming from as far away as Clare.
“In the area I come from in Duhallow, ambulances come from either Tralee or Cork, but they also might come from Limerick.
"In one instance, an ambulance came from Clare. A number of incidents have been brought to my attention where there was a two and a half hour wait from the time that the GP called for an ambulance for a critically ill patient to be picked up.
"It is simply not acceptable in this day and age,” he said.
He raised concerns that health services would only get busier over the winter months.
“In the last months in 2021, the crisis has erupted and the waiting times have been substantial. Mallow General Hospital and other hospitals need to be looked at to make sure that they can accept patients, depending on the medical need at the time.
"It is crucially important that we address the time between when it is decided that an ambulance is needed and when an ambulance comes. It is another hour in the ambulance to either Tralee or Cork from my region, which is not acceptable,” Mr Moynihan added.
Minister of State Anne Rabbitte, in response, read a script on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly.
She said: “The NAS (National Ambulance Service) does not operate a station-based deployment system. Instead, it uses dynamic deployment on a national basis. Dynamic deployment allows staff in the HSE’s national emergency operational centre, NEOC, to see all available resources, to prioritise their allocation to the higher acute cause and require an immediate emergency response.”
Ms Rabbitte said that what’s taken into account regarding ambulances is how quickly the call is answered, not the time it takes to get to the patient.
“If the call is answered within three minutes, that is considered deployed. It is not measured on when the ambulance arrives to the patient. While Deputy Moynihan talks about it taking two and a half hours for an ambulance to arrive, once the ambulance has responded prior to that, that is an efficient call,” she said.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl interjected, stating that the situation was “ridiculous” - with which Ms Rabbitte agreed.
“I assure the House that the Government is committed to the strategic reform of the National Ambulance Service,” she added.