FINE GAEL senator Jerry Buttimer has called for the resumption of National Ambulance Service (NAS) motorcycle services in Cork as a matter of urgency.
Speaking in the Seanad this week, Mr Buttimer said it was his understanding that there were two paramedics within the unit in Cork, but that the service had only been operational for two weeks this year.
Mr Buttimer asked: “Why is this the case? I’m calling on the HSE to reinstate the unit in Cork as a matter of urgency. The unit provides a rapid response and saves lives.
“Our ambulance service has undergone profound change in recent times. Traditionally it was about transporting the patient to hospital, but today it’s different — it is now about a care pathway.
“Cork needs these motorbikes back on the road seven days a week. Response times will improve.
“They are operated and trained by highly professional paramedics. These paramedics can begin treatment and report back before an ambulance arrives.
“In cities like Cork, the motorbikes allow ease of navigation through narrow, winding streets.”
Mr Buttimer said he had heard reports that the issue was down to a lack of staff. When faced with a similar situation, the Dublin motorbike unit was given relief staff to prevent the unit from going off the road, Mr Buttimer said.
“It is unacceptable that a city like Cork is not afforded the same level of service,” he continued.
“This is about saving lives
Addressing the Seanad on behalf of Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, Mary Butler, junior minister for mental health and older people, said that, during periods of normal operation, the NAS had a motorcycle response unit in Cork staffed by two paramedics, but this had changed as a result of the pandemic.
“I understand that in order to allow the NAS to maintain essential Covid-19 testing and vaccination work, it has been necessary to redeploy both paramedics back to their emergency ambulance response roles, in support of the overall emergency response.
“While the motorcycle response unit is not in scheduled operation, the NAS has advised that provision is being made for additional, newly qualified staff to be allocated to the NAS south region.
“On that basis, the NAS anticipates that the motorcycle response unit service should be able to recommence in the short to medium term,” she said.
Mr Buttimer asked if Ms Butler could get a definite date from the HSE, a request she said she would take on board.