DURING the severe weather conditions that besieged the country, HSE National Ambulance Service crews faced extreme difficulties in reaching their patients in areas that where affected by heavy snow falls.
According to Derek O'Rourke, National Secretary of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association, the situation was compounded by the lack of resources available to the National Ambulance Service to help Ambulance crews cope with such hazardous driving conditions.
Commenting on the matter, Mr O'Rourke said that it was 'a totally unacceptable situation' that ambulances were not able to get out of stations because of what he described as a failure on the part of management to foresee these issues.
He continued, "you would think after last years snowfall they would at least have made provision for following years and the possibility of another artic winter. We had Garda cars with snow socks and even ESB crews with snow socks on their vehicles but not Emergency Ambulances, Paramedic crews the length and breadth of this country struggled in dangerous conditions to reach their patients and some are lucky not to have been seriously injured or killed."
Mr O'Rourke added, "HSE should have also followed the UK's NHS line and advised the public through the media not to request an ambulance unless absolutely necessary. Our members are already at full stretch to cope with the increasing demand for Emergency Ambulances and to meet the internationally recognised eight minute response time targets without the additional pressures of trying to do so without the proper safety equipment for driving in such conditions."
Mr O'Rourke stated that the Major Emergency planning office falls under the remit of the HSE and he questioned where the planning was in all of this chaos?
"We should now be planning for the future months that may very well hold another artic spell. At the very least a list of all HSE Ambulance stations throughout the 26 Counties should be submitted to local authorities with priority given to keep the egress routes clear and gritted for Emergency Ambulances and snow tyres or socks should be purchased now and held for future use, common sense dictates this and the HSE Ambulance service should be proactive and not reactive to such foreseen circumstances," he concluded.