Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Seven years on and ambulance service needs remain

Pringle: Seven years on and ambulance service needs remain

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said little has changed since he brought ambulance service concerns to the Dáil in 2014.

Addressing the Dáil on Tuesday evening, Deputy Pringle said: “Covid-19 has highlighted not only the importance of our ambulance services, but the severe stress that we put on them due to the complete failure of this government to provide the necessary funding and investment these services need.

“I stood in this House in 2014, calling on the government to address the lack of staff and resources being reported by the ambulance services. Yet I stand here again, more than seven years later, and very little has changed. The incompetence of this government, as well as previous Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments, is absolutely staggering,” he said.

The deputy said: “They say that it cannot be fixed overnight but I fail to see how it can’t be fixed over seven years.

“To fix the ambulance service in Donegal would, I believe, take the provision of three extra ambulances in the county: one in the Killybegs base, one in Inishowen and one more in the county generally. Surely that wouldn’t be beyond the service to provide that?” he asked.

Deputy Pringle said his office has received reports of staff suffering burnout over exhaustion due to extremely long shifts. Ambulance crews backed up at hospitals waiting to discharge patients is a typical example of the dysfunction of health services, he said.

He said: “Only last month we had a report of a Donegal ambulance being tasked to Tipperary and another tasked to Belmullet while a Donegal patient was brought to Letterkenny in a garda car because no ambulance was available. This prompts serious questions about the dispatch of our ambulances.”

Deputy Pringle said that at a recent meeting with members, the manager of Letterkenny University Hospital said 80 per cent of the ambulances at LUH were freed up within two hours. But the deputy said it was the 20 per cent of ambulances there longer than two hours that lead to problems around the county.

The deputy said there have also been fears over the future of the ambulance base in Lifford, and said, “I cannot stress enough that Donegal cannot afford to lose any further ambulance bases.”

He said some good has been done and welcomed the roll-out of the Community Paramedic, who would divert patients from hospital for treatment at home, easing pressure on hospitals. However, he said, “Of course, in typical HSE style, the roll-out is stopped – probably to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

The deputy was speaking in support of a Sinn Féin motion to ensure the national ambulance service is appropriately funded and staffed.

Deputy Pringle concluded: “It is completely unacceptable that the people who are doing the most in this country are being given the least, but this will be the legacy of this government, unfortunately.”