South Down MLA Colin McGrath (SDLP) has expressed his serious concern over the ability of the NI AMBUlance Service to meet demands to get patients to hospital in reasonable time.
He said: “Over the festive break, I was alerted to a number of incidents where ambulance crews were slow to respond. This is not the fault of the staff but of the resourcing of the service as a whole. Our ambulance service is at breaking point.
“I want to put on record my praise for the paramedics and crew members who day and daily save lives but for these hardworking people to be burdened with the extra worry of being stretched too thinly on the ground is totally unfair.
“The duties of a paramedic are stressful enough without the additional worry of the calls they cannot attend.
“We continue to see ambulances being ‘trapped’ in logjams in A&E’s in the Belfast hospitals when they are delivering patients to for assessment and treatment there.
“The ambulances often by-pass our own Down Hospital and when in Belfast they may receive redirect to calls. There is I understand adequate resource in Belfast already and patients are only minutes away from the hospitals.
“Our hospitals are under significant pressures too. All over Christmas and New Year and into the flu outbreak, I saw the social media posts from different Health Trusts about the snowballing pressures in their emergency departments and the desperate need for extra resources.
“There is systemic failure in our health service when it’s difficult to get the sick to hospital, and when we do it’s a challenge to get them seen by a doctor and then when we do, it’s a struggle get them a bed on a ward.
“This is no way to run a Health Service.
“Recently we are hearing deeply worrying stories about the “Aussie Flu” which hit Ireland ith effect. Given the current pressures, how could our Health Service cope with further pressures going forward?
“We need the urgent reinstatement of our Devolved Institutions, that is the Assembly, so we can have a Minster to take the helm and begin to work through a situation which is now verging on complete disaster.
“I have made urgent representations to the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health and will continue to work towards and improved health system,” added Colin McGrath.