September 22, 2008

Ambulance Hit By Breakdown


AN ambulance on an emergency dash to collect a patient to take them to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry broke down about eight miles away, it emerged today.

A union shop steward said today that it was the same vehicle that broke down in the city ten days ago.

John McKay, of the health union Unison, reiterated a call for more investment in frontline ambulances.

Mr McKay said that frontline ambulances based at Altnagelvin were working "24-7" and said lives are put at risk when vehicles break down during emergencies.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service today said that Pounds 2m is to be invested in accident and emergency vehicles across Northern Ireland.

Mr Kay said an ambulance that broke down on Friday night in Greysteel was the same vehicle that broke down in Derry recently.

In the first instance, mechanical failure was blamed, and, according to Mr Kay, a cylinder head gasket blew on Friday night, forcing the ambulance to stop eight miles or so before it reached the patient it has been sent to collect.

An ambulance that had come to Altnagelvin from Limavady was then dispatched to pick up the patient.

Mr Kay said the patient being collected on Friday evening was going to hospital at the request of a GP.

He added: "Obviously, the GP was sufficiently concerned to warrant a blue light.

"Public confidence in the ambulance service is being worn away.

"It is the case that frontline ambulances are running 24-7 at Altnagelvin. We only have five frontline ambulances in Altnagelvin; others are used as spares."

He said spares were also sometimes loaned out, adding:

"NIAS says they are not working 24-7. If that is the case, how come we recently had four crews on shift and just three frontline ambulances?"

Mr Kay said the vehicle that broke down twice in as many weeks was one of the newer ambulances.

But he said: "We are running about in vehicles that are old. There needs to be investment. The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Speaking on radio today, John McPoland of NIAS said the vehicle that broke down was only around four years old, and that a business case was being made to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

He said the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey had signalled that Pounds 2m was available this year to improve the accident and emergency fleet.

Mr McPoland also said the frontline ambulances in Derry were "not working 24-7".

Originally published by WILLIAM ALLEN [email protected]

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