THE SDLP’s Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has voiced serious concerns following chronic staff shortages in ambulance cover for a fourth night running.
On Monday night the NI Ambulance Service said it was 12 crews short of its established compliment.
Over the weekend it was 20 crews down and an ambulance from Co Donegal was drafted into NIAS’s Altnagelvin depot to help out.
Mr Durkan says he has requested a meeting with representatives of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to explore the level of support needed to operate at optimum capacity.
Said the Foyle MLA: “There is a serious and recurring challenge with ambulance cover across the North based on increasing demand and diminishing resources.
“Deep-seated issues including the recruitment and training of new staff need to be addressed as a matter of utmost urgency.
“This weekend alone the service, regionally were 14 crews short and had to rely on assistance from the Republic.
“I know that Derry in particular sought ambulance staff from Donegal in attempts to plug the gap.
“It is unacceptable that the service has been left with no other option than to appeal to overworked ambulance staff on their much-needed days off in order to have some semblance of a functioning first-response provision.
“Within the last fortnight, I highlighted the gargantuan pressures placed on ambulance services within the Western Trust area, in particular an incident which could have proved fatal given the lack of ambulance cover available.
“The shortages the Ambulance Service experienced over the weekend are projected to continue.
“And while I’m sure that dedicated staff will no doubt step up once again, we should not be placing an additional burden on hard working emergency services personnel as a matter of routine to make up for resource deficits.”
He added: “I have requested a meeting with senior leaders in the Ambulance Service to discuss the matter and the level of support needed to operate at full capacity.
“These discussions should also look at further cooperation with the National Ambulance Service in the South given the strength of relationships between the two providers.
“We are all concerned with securing patient safety.
“The Ambulance Service continues to demonstrate immense leadership – that should be matched by politicians.”