Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy James Reilly): As Minister for Health and Children, I am very focused on the increasingly important role of pre-hospital care within the wider health services. A patient’s outcome can depend on the amount of time it takes for an ambulance to respond to an emergency call. The ambulance response time, in addition to the expertise of the paramedics attending the scene, can significantly improve the patient’s prognosis.
The Health Service Executive National Ambulance Service (NAS) has embarked on a rationalisation programme of ambulance command and control centres. The rationalisation is in line with a number of health sector reports and international best practice all of which emphasise speed of access to quality emergency services. The reconfiguration of ambulance control centres was first recommended in the Report of the Review Group on the Irish Ambulance Service in 1993. Rationalisation of control centres was further recommended in a Strategic Review of the Ambulance Service in 2001.
Since January 2011, the NAS has been working towards achieving improvements in emergency response times against the recently published HIQA Response Times and Quality Standards. Of critical importance to achieving these response times is the need to reconfigure the NAS command and control infrastructure and invest in the latest technology. From the patient’s perspective, the key benefit is that on-line advice and support can be provided and that the nearest resource responds to each emergency situation in the shortest time possible, regardless of location or geographical boundary.
It is the NAS’s intention that there will be one system for ambulance control operating in Ireland. The main site will be located on the east coast, with a live stand-by site operating on the west coast in Ballyshannon. All existing ambulance control centre functions will move to these two locations. Existing staff who do not wish to be re-assigned will be redeployed within the wider National Ambulance Service. There will be no compulsory redundancies or job losses. I believe that these developments are in the best interests of patients and that they are a key part of the Government’s work to ensure high quality emergency care.
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