An elderly woman residing in a nursing home in Drogheda had to wait three-and-a-half hours for an ambulance on Sunday night, leaving Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster to lambast Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly for the short-staffing issues that have continue to affect the ambulance service.
Speaking in Dáil Éireann on Wednesday, Deputy Munster outlined that an ambulance was called for a 95-year-old woman, who she described as “seriously ill”, but paramedics did not arrive for three-and-a-half hours.
“That is an extraordinary length of time for a seriously ill elderly woman to wait for urgent healthcare,” she told the Minister.
Deputy Munster also spoke about the case of two paramedics who have been on managerial leave at the Drogheda ambulance service since the end of July, which has seen them spending 12 hour shifts sitting in an office, unable to go out in an ambulance or carry out any duties.
“They have been in this position since last July and they want to work. This week, I am told 14 shifts will need to be covered due to staff being on Covid-19 leave, managerial leave or leave for another reason,” she said.
In a statement on Thursday, the TD said there was no sign of the matter being resolved. “The two workers want to return to work, but are being prevented from doing so.
“The service has long been understaffed, but in the midst of a pandemic we have to ensure that all qualified health workers who can work, are working. We are facing into what is expected to be the hardest winter for healthcare in the history of the state, and we are woefully unprepared.
She said that health services can expect increases in sick leave and Covid-related leave for staff in the coming weeks and months. She has written to Minister Donnelly asking him to explain the three-and-a-half hour wait for an ambulance.
“He needs to get ahead of this,” she said. “The issue with these two paramedics must be resolved as a matter of urgency, and the wider long-standing issues of understaffing at the ambulance service have to address immediately, or there could be tragic consequences for people this winter.”