An emergency call every three minutes as ambulances called to deal with drunken Easter crowds
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service responded to one emergency call every three minutes during a very busy Easter Monday for paramedics.
In total they responded to 529 calls - with one of the main complaints being "too much alcohol having been consumed by young people".
Four ambulances had to be tasked by police to scenes of "hectic crowds" in Magherafelt and Cookstown.
Before midnight there were chaotic scenes as officers dealt with a series of incidents involving drunk young people who were "vomiting, unable to stand or look after themselves".
The police said some young people had been injured from falling while others had been "left by friends" and were described as vulnerable.
The PSNI condemned the behaviour and said it was "four ambulances too many due to alcohol".
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said they were held up for more than three hours dealing with the incidents.
John McPoland said that this time could have been spent dealing with "potentially more serious calls".
He said calls regarding people having taken too much alcohol are "all too common" during holidays.
"NIAS will prioritise all calls that are received in the emergency ambulance control centre in an attempt to ensure that those whose clinical need is greatest receive our quickest response," said Mr McPoland.
"However, as is all too common at holiday times, NIAS responded to a number of calls where the chief complaint involved too much alcohol having been consumed by young people.
"PSNI Cookstown reported earlier in the week how they called us to respond to four incidents of this nature between 10pm and midnight on Easter Monday.
"One of these incidents occurred in Cookstown just after 10pm and the other three happened within the space of 45 minutes in one street in Magherafelt.
"NIAS will respond to all calls for assistance and treat the patients with care and respect.
"However, it is important to note that while we are dealing with each call, the crew is unable to respond to other, potentially more serious, calls.
"The crew dealing with the Cookstown call were tied up for more than two hours and 30 minutes and two of the crews responding to the Magherafelt incidents were tied up in excess of one hour and 45 minutes.
"This was obviously a drain on our resources on that night. NIAS would encourage everyone to - while enjoying themselves, - take steps to ensure they do not come to harm."
The PSNI said the ambulance service worked with them to help gather contact details of family to notify them that their child was at a local hospital and also in providing vital first aid. It added: "Ambulances are sometimes travelling from long distances to come to help you, and I'm pretty sure their calls are piling up too like ours."
Officers said without the help of the NIAS and other agencies on the ground, it would have been "difficult to manage the crowds".
UUP councillor for Cookstown Mark Glasgow said the ambulance service was under "enough pressure" without adding to it.
He said the incidents will be brought to the attention of the police and community safety partnership.
"The events over the Easter weekend are something they don't need as they are already under pressure without further crisis," he said.
"I'm sure it will be brought to the attention of the policing and community safety partnership."
Earlier this year it was revealed that 10 addresses in Northern Ireland were responsible for over a combined 1,000 emergency calls to the Ambulance Service in 2017.
The findings revealed the extent to which crews are repeatedly summoned to the same address.
The NIAS received a total of 1,107 emergency phone calls from the 10 addresses.
And it was revealed that one address was responsible for more than 200 calls.