Northern Ireland weekend ambulance cover at 'crisis point' - report 19 crews short
Claim ambulance chiefs have asked counterparts in the Republic for help
Northern Ireland ambulance cover for the weekend is at "crisis point," it has been claimed.
The BBC reports the service has made an appeal to staff to provide cover if they can and approached its counterparts in the Republic for assistance - something described as an "unusual move".
Health trusts have been advised there will likely be delays for "less urgent" cases.
Sources told the broadcaster it was at least 19 crews short with the Southern Health Trust area - which covers the Craigavon and Newry areas - the worst affected.
It has also advised the Air Ambulance it may be brought in to cover.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the Ambulance Service said it has been experiencing recent challenges in providing a fully-resourced service.
"The reasons are multi-faceted and include issues such as increased demand on service, turnaround times at hospital, staff vacancies, rostered annual leave and sickness absence," it said.
It said intensive training was ongoing to fill positions with almost 100 additional staff to be added to the ranks in the coming months. It is also working on a new response model.
"The implementation of this response model will require significant investment to provide more than 300 extra staff. The Trust continues to work with Department of Health in this regard."
The statement continued: "However, implementing all of these measures will take time and in the meantime NIAS will continue to experience times of increased pressure and we will work with our partners throughout the Healthcare system to ensure that our crews are available to respond to emergencies as quickly as possible.
"The Health and Social Care Trusts continue to work with us to find lasting solutions to improve hospital turnaround times.
"NIAS has recognised that this weekend will be a challenging one and has today asked the co-operation of the other Trusts by minimising delays in patient handovers at Emergency Department. This is a normal and appropriate part of our established escalation arrangements.
"NIAS staff will work tirelessly over the weekend, and beyond, to ensure that those who are most in need of our service, receive the quickest and most appropriate response."
Belfast Telegraph Digital