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Connemara ambulance campaigners celebrate big win


Department of Health announces extra ambulance staff and vehicles for Connemara

Anton McNulty

A SPOKESPERSON for the Connemara Ambulance Crisis Group believes criticism of the National Ambulance Service by the Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil acted as a catalyst for the announcement of funding for new services.
After a seven-year campaign to improve the ambulance service for the region, the Connemara Ambulance Crisis Group were informed last Wednesday that the Department of Health and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) approved funding for eleven extra staff and two extra vehicles.
The extra staff will include a paramedic supervisor and a clinical supervisor and the deployment of an extra ambulance to Connemara for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, along with a rapid-response vehicle on an extended day basis.
Patricia Joyce, a spokesperson for the Connemara Ambulance Crisis Group told The Mayo News that after many false dawns in their campaign they were delighted with the unexpected news.
“We are absolutely delighted with the good news. It was a long road and we were not expecting it to be honest. We have been campaigning for seven years, it was extremely hard work but it was so worth it now to see the end in sight and the reality of seeing out what we set out to achieve,” she said.

Patricia admitted that there was no indication this announcement was imminent and they were shocked when they were informed of the news by Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív.
Patricia believes that the turning point in the campaign came about when the matter was raised in the Dáil on July 1 by three Galway West TDs Eamon Ó Cuív, Catherine Connolly and Mairéad Farrell. They had sought an update on a report by the NAS on the feasibility of an ambulance base in Maam Cross, but they were informed by the Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte that the NAS advised her that there was no such commitment.
The three TDs criticised the NAS for its response and they were of no doubt that a commitment had been made for a report at an online meeting in April of this year.
Minister Rabittee said she would organise a meeting with the Department officials and the NAS within a month, and Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl accused the NAS of treating the Dáil with contempt.
“It is outrageous that State agencies would treat this House with contempt when they produce to us, by way of an answer to a serious question, waffle rather than a substantial answer,” he said.
“We were lucky they [TDs] backed us and Anne Rabbittee was dealing with it at the time. To our astonishment the Ceann Comhairle stated the NAS was treating the House with contempt.
“Out of the blue we got the call to say this was approved and the funding was there. It was a big turnaround in a short space of time after all these years,” Patricia commented.

Base location
At present there are only two ambulances located in Clifden and An Ceathru Rua to cover the whole Conemara region but those ambulances are often called to emergencies as far away as Roscommon. There have been incidents where patients have been waiting up to four hours for an ambulance to arrive. Recently a baby was born in a car near Letterfrack as the mother waited for an ambulance to arrive from Swinford.
Despite the welcome announcement, Patricia said that the campaign’s work is not yet done, and the next phase will be to ensure a location for the ambulance base is agreed without delay.
“Our next job is to let the dust settle and then meet the NAS to discuss the location. The NAS are to engage with the local stakeholders which will include our group and the local TDs to pinpoint the best location for the ambulance service base. That has not been set in stone yet, but we have been fighting tooth and nail to get it located in Maas Cross to cover north and south Connemara. The details will have to be ironed out, and we will be happier yet when its set in stone.”