An emergency motion put forward by Councillor Michael Savage at tonight's monthly Newry, Mourne and Down Council meeting, expressing concern at the lack of ambulance cover locally over the weekend seems to have been passed.

The motion also asked for an urgent meeting between Council and the Chief Executive of the NI Ambulance Service, and proposed  that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chief Executive Marie Ward write to Health Minister Robin Swann and Finance Minister Conor Murphy seeking funding to ensure an ambulance service can operate without difficulty and enable emergency services to be restored to Daisy Hill Hospital for September.

An amendment to the motion by Cllr Barra Ó Muirí to remove a line mentioning Conor Murphy  was defeated and the original motion seems to have been carried. Votes were recorded by private messaging and some people had voted twice but Chairperson, Cllr Laura Devlin and CEO Marie Ward seemed happy that the motion had passed and the final count will be put in the meeting minutes.

Speaking as he tabled the motion Newry city Councillor Michael Savage mentioned a road traffic incident that took place this morning  "This motion reflects, I believe the deep concerns of every one of our elected representatives and I believe the people we represent.

"One of the first things I had to deal with today was to take a phone call from a distraught neighbour of two young people who were trapped in their car on the old A1 at Sheepbridge early this morning.

"Fire and emergency crews were called to the scene and I believe fire crews used cutting equipment to free the driver and passenger.

"Neighbours rushed to the scene and inform me that there were two ambulances requested. One, I am told, arrived one hour after it was called and took one of the injured to hospital and I am also told that it was over two hours from the accident was reported before the second injured party was in an ambulance and on their way to hospital.

Cllr Michael Savage.

"Firstly chair I want to pass on my thoughts and prayers to the two young people and who were injured this morning and their families who are going through a difficult time and trust they make a full recovery. I also want to thank the members of the emergency services who arrived at the scene, including the fantastic ambulance crews for their professionalism in getting these two young people to hospital."


Cllr Savage continued "This morning’s incident was not the only one over the last few days where waiting times for ambulances were unacceptable due to lack of cover. I’m also aware of reports of a lengthy delay for an ambulance to attend an emergency in Dominic Street in Newry at the weekend.

"But chair, questions must be asked around how it took so long for ambulances to reach the scene of these emergencies. Our ambulance crews do heroic work every minute of every day and are being asked to dash to harrowing scenes at a moments notice. Unfortunately, they are being let down by a system that does not appear to be fit for purpose. How can the system leave the people of this area with no ambulance cover in recent days?

"Why was our area in particular left with no cover during a Pandemic when our local emergency units at Daisy Hill and The Downe are temporarily closed as part of the Department of Health’s response to Covid-19 and heavily dependent on the NI Ambulance Service to take patients to the ED at Craigavon or The Ulster Hospital in Dundonald?

"Chair you just couldn’t make it up.

"Answers are needed and that is why I have tabled this emergency motion this evening."

Meet With Council

Explaining the motion the Newry city councillor said "The first part of the motion requests the Chief Executive of the NI Ambulance Service to meet with this Council and answer the very serious questions we have on behalf of the people of this district relating to the ambulance service and its ability to meet current and future demand."

Triage by Ambulance

Cllr Savage continued "The second part of the motion raises the areas of concern we now have in this district in the week that the Health Minister is expected to announce a new regime for Emergency Departments due to be rolled out over the next three months that will eventually lead to Daisy Hill and the Downe EDs opening again. I am led to believe that this new ED regime will involve triage by ambulance. This weekend’s events do not instil much confidence in the Minister’s potential plan. If the ambulance service is key to any new regime then it must be resourced properly financially and resourced properly from a staffing perspective. That is why we must write to the Health Minister outlining our concerns and seeking assurances that any plans he has for the future of Emergency Services across this district must be adequately resourced and the ambulance service is not left threadbare again in Newry Mourne and Downe and our valiant frontline emergency workers and ambulance crews are not stretched to the limits.


The Newry city representative continued "The third element of the motion highlights the need for the Department of Finance to step up and provide the funding needed to meet the future challenges of our Health Service and the delivery of our emergency and ambulance service over the coming months and years. That is why we need to write to Minister Conor Murphy requesting that he makes the necessary funding available to ensure that any changes to our Emergency Care are positive and deliverable. Our party group has always said that we would support the Finance Minister in any attempt he makes to try and extract more money from the Treasury and we stand that today."

Concluding Cllr Savage added "Chair I will sum up by asking us all to remember that when an ambulance is called there are real people involved. The frontline crews who have to make their way to, on some occasions a harrowing scene, and the people desperately in need of emergency medical assistance. If the system is broken these real people suffer, the crews are stretched to the limits in an already stressful job and those in need of their assistance suffer if they have to wait on the logistics of getting ambulances freed up to reach them sorted. The people of this district deserve better treatment than this and the magnificent staff that are our ambulance crews deserve better than this and that is why I urge members to support this motion."

The Motion 

This Council is deeply concerned that the greater Newry, South Down and South Armagh area has been left with no NI Ambulance Service cover in recent days and has been reliant on the support of St. John's Ambulance Service and Rapid Response vehicles to provide cover in the area; expresses anger at the unacceptable lengthy delays in getting ambulances to the scene of a serious road accident and other emergencies over the weekend and asks the Council Chief Executive to write to the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service requesting an urgent meeting with Councillors to discuss the lack of ambulance cover across the district; writes to the Health Minister Robin Swann seeking assurances that adequate funding has been sought and secured to ensure any potential ambulance triaging as part of a new-look post Covid-19 Emergency Service can operate without difficulty and tackle issues around crew shortages; and writes to Finance Minister Conor Murphy requesting that adequate funding is provided to the Department of Health and NIAS  to ensure Emergency Services can be restored to Daisy Hill and Downe Hospitals in the timeframes outlined by the Southern and South Eastern Health Care Trusts.


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