Belfast Telegraph

Ambulance crews from Irish Republic drafted in to help combat shortages

The NIAS requested support from its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.
The NIAS requested support from its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.

Ambulance crews from the Republic of Ireland have been drafted in for the second night in a row to help with staff shortages in Northern Ireland.

The BBC has reported that an ambulance crew from the Irish Republic was based at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry on Saturday.

A separate crew helped out at Newry ambulance station on Friday night.

An Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) spokesperson confirmed that they were 10 crews short on Saturday night but said that staff members who were off had volunteered to come in and work partial shifts to get through the busiest period.

Eight private and voluntary ambulances also worked to deal with non life-threatening cases.

On Friday it emerged that NIAS had warned of ambulance shortages this weekend, particularly during night shifts.

The situation arose because of insufficient staff.

The NIAS requested support from the Republic of Ireland, with there being an understanding between the ambulance services on both sides of the border that they will help each other in special circumstances.

The shortages were highlighted in a letter sent to the directors of all five health trusts and the Health and Social Care Board by Robert Sowney, interim director of operations at the ambulance service.

Mr Sowney said the service was "anticipating and planning for ambulance resource challenges this weekend".

NIAS Chief Executive Michael Bloomfield told the BBC that there were 14 crews out of 52 working on Friday night.

"That's substantial, that's over a quarter," he said.

"I've been advised that last night there were no significant issues of concern to report, but people will have waited longer and I apologise for that."

He said that the NIAS faced a similar situation on Saturday night but that the service had continued to contact staff who were willing to come in and cover.

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