South Down MLA Colin McGrath has called on Health Minister Michelle O’Neill to make more funds available to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service so they can increase the number of ambulances on duty.
The SDLP MLA said: ‘The recent Assembly Question response from Michelle O’Neill has highlighted once again the unacceptable wait times that ambulances are subjected to at the Ulster Hospital.
“In Northern Ireland last year the Department’s own target of 15 minute turnaround for ambulances was missed 140,000 times with a one hour waiting time breached 8,000 times. 1,700 of these were at the Ulster Hospital and on 127 occasions at the Ulster the wait was more than two hours.
“This is clearly unacceptable and highlights the problem there is with patient flow at the Ulster Hospital. Having ambulances waiting outside Emergency Departments means that they are not available to cover our area and I fear that this is putting patient safety at risk. How many times do we hear of elderly folk lying on the ground injured waiting over an hour on an ambulance?
“I would urge Minister O’Neill that if she is unable to sort out the mess of patient flow at Emergency Departments that she then considers pumping funds into the NI Ambulance Service so that when the vehicles are tied up at Emergency Departments that there is adequate cover on the ground.
“It is only a matter of time before we hear of a patient death due to these delays and there must be action before, not after, such an occasion,” added Colin McGrath.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has also supported Colin McGrath’s position on the call for more funding for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. Ms Ritchie yesterday vented her anger when she learned of an 82-year old constituent having an extraordinary long wait to be transferred back to the Downe Hospital from the Ulster Hospital following what were basically routine tests.
The woman ended up having to stay at the Ulster Hospital overnight coming back to the Downe Hospital at around 10.30am. She described the current situation over the NI Ambulance Service as “totally unacceptable.”