Renewed fears about ambulance cover in the North West

There are renewed fears about ambulance shortages today.

The Irish Independent claims as many as six counties are being left with just one ambulance on duty.

The paper claims that Donegal and Sligo are among the counties where sometimes just one ambulance is available at night.

It also says just two emergency ambulances are providing round the clock cover in Leitrim, Longford and Carlow seven days a week, while Sligo Monaghan and Laois are also regularly covered by just two vehicles.

One paramedic has reported it’s common for ambulance drivers to be sent to incidents up to 80 kilometres away.

Meanwhile, it’s emerged the two main hospitals serving the North West spent €3.5 million on private ambulances in the years between 2012 and 2015.

That’s according to figures obtained by Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly following a recent parliamentary question.

The figures found that in those four years, Sligo University Hospital had spent a total of €1.6 million on private ambulances. While Letterkenny University Hospital management had forked out €1.9 million on such services.

Sligo/Leitrim Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny says this does not represent value for money. He said that the money would be better spent in investing in ambulances for each HSE region, rather than hiring out private services.

He warned that unless the current fleet of HSE ambulances are upgraded, then hospitals will continue to rely on private vehicles.