Just 30,000 calls got ambulance in eight minutes

Over 80,000 emergency callers for an ambulance were forced to wait the maximum waiting time of almost half an hour this year, figures obtained from the HSE have shown.

Labour TD Joe Costello has slammed the news, saying it is clear that "critical minutes in potentially life-threatening situations are being lost".

"This is simply not good enough. It is clear that targets to get an ambulance out to the caller are simply not being met. Depending on the injury or illness these are crucial minutes which could determine whether someone lives or dies. It is not sufficient and is a very worrying statistic," he said.

Costello has set up a protest outside the Mater hospital every Saturday in which he plans to highlight what he calls the major shortcomings in accident and emergency services.

"The delay of close to half an hour for these people is not the only delay they will face and is the tip of the iceberg. There is a major shortage of beds in A&E wards, and it is leading to ambulances being forced to wait with their patients in the hospital yard until a bed can be found. This easily adds another half-hour onto the time and is becoming hugely prevalent."

But Michael Dineen, chairman of the Association of Ambulance Personnel (AOAP), said "long waiting times are the exception rather than the rule".

"If we had ambulances waiting on every corner, which would never be possible, it still would not work out that callers would be reached straight away," he said.

Rejecting Costello's claims ofunder-resourcing and an imminent A&E crisis, Dineen maintains that "resources are fine at the moment, and the HSE is continuing to recruit staff into training for the ambulance services."

The figures also show that 73,620 callers had to wait up to 19 minutes for an ambulance, and just 29,757 were answered within eight minutes.

Costello is now calling on the HSE to review ambulance services in light of the figures.

"It is one huge delay after another in accident and emergency. This service is under-resourced, affected by other failures in the health system, and it is time the HSE reviewed the sector and tried to achieve better targets than waiting times of almost half an hour," he said.