The issue of emergency services travelling along The Quay’s new layout has been raised by Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) on numerous occasions.
He again highlighted the issue at the July Metropolitan meeting of Waterford City & County Council and reiterated that emergency services were having difficulties despite some reports suggesting otherwise.
At a previous meeting of the Metropolitan District, Chief Fire Officer Niall Curtin stated that there had been no reports of delays from fire officers as a result of The Quay’s new layout.
However, Cllr Kelly said he had received reports from “all over the place” in relation to emergency services and stated that he had two videos which confirmed these claims.
He described the issue as a “consistent problem”, particularly at peak travel times.
Cllr Kelly said there were certain “pinch points” in the area which appeared to cause problems.
He suggested that the council should examine these locations to see if something could be done to improve the situation.
He also stated that a number of vehicles had been damaged by ambulances struggling to navigate the new layout along The Quay.
“Traffic has to pull in and I know of a couple of vehicles that have been damaged while pulling in,” he said.
“One or two ambulances have clipped mirrors as they have passed,” he added.
Cllr Kelly highlighted the seriousness of the situation.
“What happens if somebody passes away while stuck in the back of an ambulance trying to make its way along The Quay?” he asked.
In response, Senior Executive Engineer Niall Kane said Waterford City & County Council would look at the “pinch points” as suggested by Cllr Kelly and would examine what could be done to “alleviate issues”.
At a meeting of the Metropolitan District in June 2015, Senior Engineer Ray Mannix had told Cllr Kelly that there was “categorically no issue” with The Quay in relation to emergency services.
Mr Mannix said the issue of emergency vehicles was specifically taken into consideration when working on the new layout on The Quay.
“I just don’t accept this idea that The Quay is a disaster,” he told Cllr Kelly.
Mr Mannix said the works which had been carried out on The Quay were intended “to reduce traffic speeds and to make it safer for pedestrians to cross from the car parks into the city centre”.
In a statement issued to The Munster Express last year, Waterford City & County Council said (1) that The Quay was designed with emergency vehicle access in mind; (2) there is ample road width available for two vehicles to pass on both sides of The Quay provided no other vehicles are parked illegally; and (3) Waterford City & County Council has not received any complaints from the Emergency Services based at UHW regarding access.
Meanwhile, the issue of lengthy waiting times for ambulances was highlighted by Cllr Pat Fitzgerald (SF) at the July plenary meeting of Waterford City & County Council.
He proposed a motion, stating that “Waterford City & County Council recognises the fact that the National Ambulance Service is understaffed and the understaffing of this emergency service has resulted in lengthy response times for some emergency call outs in the South East Region. This Council now requests the Ministry of Health and the Health Service Executive to actively consider deploying more ambulance personnel to improve emergency ambulance response times in the South East Region”.
Cllr Fitzgerald highlighted an incident on New Year’s Eve when an ambulance was dispatched from Wexford General Hospital to a call-out in East Waterford and took over an hour to arrive.
“We had a situation where an ambulance had to travel 60km through atrocious weather conditions to answer a call which was six minutes’ drive from UHW,” he said.
“Only for the fact that there were two qualified doctors living next door to the casulaty, there would have been a fatality.”
Cllr Fitzgerald also spoke of his own personal experience of waiting an hour and a half for an ambulance.
“This is a service that has to be maintained and financed properly and a service that’s essential to any society,” he said.
His party colleague Cllr Siobhan Whelan seconded the motion which also received support from fellow councillors.
In April, Unite members at Waterford’s Ambulance Service took strike action as a result of health and safety concerns for both staff members and the public.
The dispute centred on a new system which came into operation last year which Unite claimed was having a “knock-on effect”, stating that staff members were at “breaking point” and suffering from burnout.