Public told to expect delays when they call ambulance

Covid-19 infection surge places pressure on provision of emergency ambulance services

The ambulance service in the Dublin region is facing significant pressure due to a large volume of calls, as the wider health service continues to deal with a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) and Dublin Fire Brigade have told the public to expect possible delays for ambulances as a result.

Robert Morton, NAS director, said the service would “continue to be extremely busy” over the coming days. “If the situation is not serious or life-threatening consider contacting your GP, a minor injury unit, your pharmacist or self-care,” he said.

Mr Morton appealed to the public to “bear with us” and expect possible delays in ambulance response times. Ambulance staff would “continue to work incredibly hard trying to deliver normal health services” against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

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‘Limited resources’

In a statement, the Health Service Executive (HSE) advised people in Dublin they might experience delays if they called an ambulance "for a non-urgent or non-life-threatening emergency". Ambulances would be diverted to calls "whose emergency care needs have been triaged at a higher level", it said.

“The emergency service requests that patients who no longer require an ambulance, to contact us and let us know, so that we can ensure that our limited resources can be diverted to other life-threatening calls,” the statement said.

The pressure on ambulance services in Dublin comes as hospitals are responding to sustained increases in the numbers infected with the Covid-19 virus in recent weeks.

Intensive care

There are more than 1,600 patients in acute hospitals who have tested positive for Covid-19, with just over 50 in intensive care.

Health officials and politicians have warned the highly transmissible Omicron sub-variant BA.2 has led to a surge in new infections. Despite this, there was no discussion or update on the virus at Cabinet on Tuesday, sources said.

There were 5,962 new cases of the virus confirmed by PCR testing on Tuesday, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. This was in addition to 8,587 positive cases detected by rapid antigen tests registered on the HSE’s portal.

Speaking on Tuesday, HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said without the high rate of vaccinations the health system “would have keeled over” by now.

About 6,000 healthcare staff are absent from work because of Covid-19.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times