Ambulance cover fears after firefighters take gas blast victims to A&E in Northern Ireland
Ambulance chiefs have confirmed that a family caught up in a gas cooker explosion in Newry last week were taken to hospital by the Fire Service.
The incident in the city's Barcroft Park last Monday evening saw three boys - aged 12, 10 and six - a girl aged eight and a 34-year-old woman taken to hospital in a fire appliance and a fire officer's car.
All four children have since been discharged, but no update was available on the condition of the woman, who was taken to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
Alliance Party Health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw MLA last night welcomed the inter-agency collaboration, but said she was concerned that the emergency services were being under-resourced.
She said: "I fear this incident is another example of how our under- resourced Ambulance Service is being propped up by our equally under-resourced Fire Service.
"It is time for a Health Minister to get into post and deal with the myriad of problems affecting the entire health and social care sector. People's lives are being put in jeopardy on a daily basis, and I'm so thankful the Fire Service was able to provide support on this occasion."
The Ambulance Service said that the nearest available crew was despatched from Armagh at 6.31pm, with further vehicles despatched from Armagh and Craigavon.
It added: "Another crew was at Daisy Hill emergency department (ED) with a patient. By 6.38pm the control officer in ambulance control contacted staff in the ED to request that the ambulance crew be made available to respond to the incident in Barcroft Park, and were told that they should be available within five minutes, meaning that they would be on scene within another two or three minutes."
It added that it was subsequently decided by a firefighter, who is also an Ambulance Service paramedic, that it would be "appropriate" to transport the injured to hospital in Fire Service vehicles.
"The Ambulance Service faces challenges in delivering our service in the context of more than 200,000 calls per year," it said.
"We will always seek to provide the quickest and most appropriate response to those who have need of our help."