Newry and Armagh MP, Mickey Brady and MLA, Liz Kimmins met yesterday 8 July with senior Ambulance Service staff to discuss ongoing concerns in relation to Ambulance cover in the Newry, South Down and South Armagh region.

Speaking after the meeting Mickey Brady said “Our meeting was an important opportunity to discuss the key issues impacting on the ambulance service at this time. It was constructive and from the outset we assured Ambulance Service Chief Executive Michael Bloomfield and Head of Operations Robert Sowney that whilst we had serious concerns which needed to be discussed, we were sincere about helping find solutions.”.

The MP continued “We are acutely aware of the longstanding pressures on the ambulance service which have been further compounded by the covid pandemic. Staffing levels that were already stretched have been inevitably reduced even more due to covid, resulting in an over reliance on overtime to cover shifts, which is incredibly challenging and simply unsustainable”.

Mickey also pointed out "With longer journey times for ambulance crews now having to travel to Craigavon Emergency Department whilst Daisy Hill Emergency Department is temporarily closed, this has also has had a significant impact on the service”

Newry & Armagh MLA Liz Kimmins commenting after the meeting said, "People deserve an operational, properly funded and well-resourced Ambulance service that is fit for purpose. They are clearly not getting that. Communities across this region should not have to experience long and dangerous delays waiting for ambulances. The paramedics and frontline personnel want to ensure quality of care and patient safety and this cannot happen without adequate resourcing being given.

"However what has been happening in our Ambulance service and the entire Health Service is that the Tory Government through their years of austerity have starved our Executive and vital services such as Health  of funding and resources. The pressure we witness on the likes of our health, housing and education services on a regular basis is a damning indictment of that Tory austerity and inaction”.

Ms Kimmins emphasised her party's commitment to find solutions to the problems the Ambulance Service are currently facing.

“Sinn Féin aren't in the business of chastising those who doing their best to provide a frontline service to protect citizens and save lives.

"We want to find solutions to the challenges they are facing, which is why engagement with all levels within the ambulance service is so important and that is what we have been doing.

"We are aware that in March this year NIAS  submitted a business case to the Department for Health for the implementation of the Clinical Response Model which, if approved, will transform the ambulance service.

"The Ambulance Service requires significant investment and we have written to the Minister for Health asking him to prioritise the progression of this model in order to begin the process of addressing the issues we are currently facing”.

"Concluding the Newry and Armagh MLA said “Both myself and my colleague Sinead Ennis, MLA for South Down, will continue to engage with the Minister for Health  on this issue to ensure the provision of a properly resourced ambulance service for all across the North of Ireland.

"The ambulance service are the cornerstone of emergency and unscheduled care, with staff who are working under extremely difficult circumstances, with little to no breaks.

"This is not just a characteristic of Covid, but the normality for those working in the Ambulance Service, and we are eternally grateful for all they do for the people of this district and across the region”.

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