Tuam Ambulance Base won’t give 24/7 cover when it opens
By SIOBHÁN HOLLIMAN
ROUND the clock ambulance cover won’t be provided when the long-awaited Tuam Ambulance Base opens at the end of this year.
Area Operations Manager for the Ambulance Service Paudie O’Riordan told The Tuam Herald that he can only guarantee a 12-hour service for the start-up of the base, which he says is on target to become operational in the autumn.
Construction work started last year on the two-storey building, which is located on part of the former Bon Secours hospital lands, not far from the Irish Wheelchair Association centre.
It was expected that the base would provide 24-hour ambulance cover but Mr O’Riordan says the most he can guarantee initially is a 12-hour daytime service due to staffing shortages.
The current financial constraints, he explained, meant that the ambulance crew staff will have to be found from existing staff resources. He said in order to offer a 24-hour service, 11 staff are required but that allocation can’t be guaranteed to be in place by the end of 2012.
“Like everywhere in the health service at the moment we are restricted in terms of staffing,” he said.
Mr O’Riordan is confident that the Tuam base will bring benefits across the region and not just for the town’s catchment area.
Response times to emergency calls from Tuam and the North Galway region will improve once the base goes live and it is also expected to benefit response times in the city as crews will no longer have to travel out from University Hospital Galway.
“The capital cost of the building has been secured and the challenge for us is to open it with the exisiting staff resources and demonstrate the improvements it will bring and show how a 24-hour service will be of benefit,” he told The Herald.
The Tuam base has been designed to be able to accommodate up to 20 staff to provide for two full-time crews and allow for the further expansion of services in the future.
“I’m sure the demand is there for a 24-hour, seven-days a week service,” he added.
“The base is a starting point,” said the ambulance area manager, who is certain it will have a positive impact on response times and improve patient outcome for the North Galway region.
“It will improve issues within the whole county, not just Tuam,” said Mr O’Riordan.
An additional six staff have been approved for intermediary care, such as hospital transfers, for the Galway-Roscommon ambulance service and this will allow frontline ambulance crews to be freed up. The plan is to redeploy one crew from UHG to Tuam for when it opens.
Last September Labour Deputy Colm Keaveney said there was no question of the Government not honouring its commitment to staffing the facility.
25 extra staff
He had indicated that 25 extra staff would be appointed as part of the reconfiguration of ambulance services in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
There has been an ongoing campaign for nearly ten years to have an ambulance base provided in Tuam. Frustrated GPs have continually stated that even one ambulance operating on a full-time basis would have a dramatic impact on patients’ well-being. Doctors say that, time and time again, they have to wait for an ambulance to travel from Galway, or in some cases from Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar.
It’s understood that the new ambulance base’s primary role will be in pre-hospital emergency calls requiring an ambulance service, and as part of the overall ambulance service in the region.
The ambulance base in Tuam will form part of the network of ambulance bases in the HSE West region and will have a catchment area broadly within a 15-mile/25-minute radius of Tuam.
The day-to-day operations of the unit will be controlled from the Ambulance Regional Control Centre, and all requests for emergency calls and patient transport will emanate from this control centre.