THE HSE are denying claims that changes to the roster of the Ambulance Service will leave only one ambulance on duty in Portlaoise two days every week.
A source close to the ambulance service said that an unrostered shift was being removed in Portlaoise, leaving just one ambulance on duty in the base in Portlaoise between the hours of 8am and 8pm on Monday’s and Tuesday’s.
“This is to make up hours for Edenderry, they will now have cover seven days of the week. There is always a backlog of calls for the night shift and it is common for the hospital to be left wondering where the ambulance is,” he said.
The man who contacted the Leinster Express said it was common for ambulances to be sent over to Edenderry from Portlaoise if it was quiet only to be called back to the Portlaoise Base when the remaining ambulance is called out.
If there is an emergency transfer from the hospital ambulance to it cannot be sent until you get another ambulance in from another region. While there are only two ambulances in Portlaoise to serve the entire county’s 80,000 populations, the hospital, two prisons and the motorways that cross the county, Offaly have access to five ambulances for the majority of the time.
Birr is served on a 24/7 basis by one ambulance, except for one 12 hour period, Tullamore has two ambulances 24/7 and an extra ambulance from Monday to Friday and Edenderry has an ambulance based in the town from 9-9am every night, except for one night per week.
“There should have been extra ambulances put on now that they can only carry one patient, but instead of that it’s being reduced. If there is an Advanced Paramedic, they will be held out to be send to more serious calls, as they can administer stronger drugs, they also won’t be used to do hospital transfers, so the jobs are piling up all the time.
“I know this is not just a Portlaoise problem, all other stations are being affected, but it means that there will only be one ambulance in Portlaoise at those times now,” said the ambulance service source.
It is claimed that staff’s subsistence claims, for being away from base for longer than five hours “have gone through the roof” in recent years.
In a statement. the HSE said that there were no plans to change the rosters but it was reviewing the service.
“The HSE Ambulance Service is constantly reviewing service provision in the context of ensuring efficient and optimum resource utilisation and continuous patient focused care.”
“National Ambulance Service resources located in the Midlands are deployed on a spatial basis to provide emergency cover and respond to demand dynamically throughout the Midlands rather than specific towns where staff actually report for duty thus ensuring the best possible care to those suffering serious illness or injury,” the statement said.