The HSE has refuted suggestions that the lives of people in West Waterford are bring put in jeopardy because of lengthy ‘response times’ from ambulances.

Though the medical profession widely regards what happens in the first 60 minutes after an emergency medical incident as critical for a patient’s survival, it was reported in The Irish Examiner this week that patients in West Waterford often wait an hour and fifteen minutes to get to hospital via ambulance.

However the HSE has said the official journey times, measured from the moment an ambulance leaves its base until the patient arrives at the hospital, is influenced by many factors, particularly the amount of time that the ambulance crew spend treating patients at the scene. A spokesperson said the average response time for emergency calls in the Dungarvan/West Waterford area is 22 minutes, blaming any delays on long distances, poor road conditions and traffic congestion on any delays.

The HSE has stressed that the average times and statistics do not necessarily reflect the reality of the issues that arise for the Ambulance Crews on a daily basis.  “The rural geographic nature of the environment in which the National Ambulance Service (NAS) operate is clearly a challenge”, the spokesperson said. “With the increased skill level of Paramedics and Advanced Paramedics it is conceivable that a greater amount of time will be spent on the scene of accidents or with critically ill patients in efforts to stabilise them before transporting them to hospital.  This could in fact increase journey times, however, it is generally accepted that the time required to administer this level of medical intervention at the scenes of incidents provides better clinical outcomes for patients.”

However Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly has dismissed this response, claiming that very few ambulances had an extensive range of pre-hospital resources in place.