Fianna Fáil Cllr Deirdre O’Brien.

Cllr: Investment is needed for ‘broken’ ambulance service

Lives will be lost if there is not immediate and substantial investment in Ireland’s ambulance fleet, a Cork County Councillor has said.

Speaking at a recent meeting of Cork County Council, Fianna Fáil Cllr Deirdre O’Brien called for an investigation into the nation’s current ambulance system.

The Fermoy councillor said people are experiencing huge waiting times due to a lack of ambulance availability. She said this is party due to non-emergency callouts.

“By reducing the hours of our SouthDoc, our ambulance service is now not bad, it’s broken,” said Cllr O’Brien.

“We now have an ambulance being called out for non-emergency cases that could be treated by a GP at SouthDoc,” she added.

In July 2023 it was confirmed that the SouthDoc Fermoy would cut its opening hours due to doctor shortages, meaning there would no longer be an overnight service.

The Fermoy site now opens from 6-10pm Monday – Friday and 9am-6pm at weekends.

Cllr O’Brien said that as a result of services being overstretched, ambulance staff are exhausted and are often required to drive more than 100km at a time.

She continued: “If they take a patient to a city hospital, they’re then told to stay in the city that night to attend calls in the city and not go back to their own areas of responsibility.

“This begs the question, who is to look after people in these areas? There needs to be further investment into the fleet if we are to save lives.

“In my own area of Fermoy, the ambulance is never in Fermoy, it is diverted to Mallow, Clonmel, or even Dungarvan regularly to cover for staff in these centres,” added Cllr O’Brien.

Independent Cllr Frank Roche said: “In my own village we had a man who passed away and his daughter to this day is very upset; she felt that if the ambulance had come in time, that he would have been saved. Now, nobody will ever know that but it’s something she has to live with for the rest of her life.”

Independent West Cork Cllr Declan Hurley also shared a recent example from his municipal distric.: “Down in West Cork a few weeks ago, everybody knows the size of West Cork, a person turned up at their GP feeling unwell and ended up having to be escorted from the practice by firefighters to an air ambulance because there was no ambulance available in West Cork.

“Our health service is in a deplorable situation. Lives are at risk and action needs to be taken,” he added.

Meanwhile, Clare O’Callaghan, Sinn Féin election candidate for Cork South West, said last Tuesday week that she had received information that there was no paramedic cover in West Cork for that day.

“This is absolutely outrageous. People in the area will be at risk. An urgent review of ambulance resources, to ensure the service is properly funded and has enough staff is needed immediately,” she said. In October last year, in response to concerns around ambulance shortages, emergency medical response charity CRITICAL established a new team in North Cork made up of a doctor and five paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) volunteering in the area. The team to responds to serious incidents and potentially life-threatening medical emergencies in the region.