Local representatives met with the Ambulance Service this week to deliver a stark message that failure to address its staffing crisis will result in lost lives.
The Derry News reported on a number of concerning incidents last month which highlighted a staffing crisis within the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).
Firstly, a man suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling and fracturing his skull in the city centre.
A doorman who came to his aid was unable to get through to a call handler at NIAS. This delay could have been potentially fatal for the patient but fortunately the PSNI was on hand to transport him to hospital for emergency treatment.
The following weekend, a worker voiced further concerns about a shortage of ambulance crews across the entire Western Division.
A large part of the division was left without adequate cover the weekend of July 20, when only one of Derry's three ambulance crews was operational.
This was more problematic given that stations in Strabane and Castlederg had zero crews that night - a situation the NIAS attributed to “staff vacancies, rostered leave and sickness”.
Ongoing anxieties around service levels prompted an SDLP delegation, led by Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA, to meet with the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Durkan said: “Recent media coverage has shone a light on some of the pressures facing the ambulance service, ambulance crews and, as a result, the risk to the public.
“For several years now NIAS has struggled to deal with a legacy of poor workforce planning decision making. Despite recent moves to address this, the staff remain over- stretched and over stressed.
“While we aired our concerns about lack of ambulance cover and the response times in some areas, we also took the opportunity to place on record our deep appreciation of the hard-working, heroic crews who go above and beyond every day in their life-saving work.
“The SDLP will continue to campaign for more investment in our Ambulance Service and support for its staff. Failure to implement improvements really will cost lives so it is vital that we ensure that NIAS is fit for purpose.”
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