SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey is to meet with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Minister for Health to campaign for extra cover and a pay rise for staff.
The Derry politician was speaking after accusing the Minister for Health of not providing clarity about what kind of ambulance provision there will be today during a day of industrial action.
He says he has spoken to Ambulance staff who say they are at breaking point. It has also emerged that Derry’s third ambulance is often used to transport patients to Belfast and therefore not always available.
“The entire public service is being slashed,” said Mr. Ramsey. “The Tory government and its cost cutting have left us in a position where today our children have no teachers; towns across the North have no ambulance cover.“
The strongest pillars of our society are forced to strike from jobs that they would describe as their calling.
“If I may concentrate on our ambulance service, which after consultation with those who work at the coal face, they described themselves as at breaking point.
“It is clear that staff are under huge strain, they are over stretched, under resourced and under valued by this administration. It is time the Health Minister granted them the pittance of a raise as was recommended by the independent Pay Review Body in 2014.”
Describing the Ambulance Service as one of: “Our city and regions greatest yet undervalued assets.” Mr Ramsey added: “In consultation with NIAS staff it has become clear that there is a need for even greater ambulance provision within the city.
“While a campaign a few years ago to have provision extended was very successful, that success has since been undermined by subsequent events. For example the closure of Omagh Hospital has added extra pressures on the service and its employees.
“While there may be three ambulances assigned to the Northwest it is, according to the front line staff, very common for one of those vehicles to be used to transport patients to Belfast. This is a service but it results in a shortfall in provision for the North’s second city.”
“I will be meeting the Northern Ireland’s Ambulance Service in order to put forward the case for extra cover and the Minister of Health to ensure staff are paid the mere 1% rise afforded to them.
“Rather than wait until a fatality or other tragedy occurs due to short fall in ambulance provision it is now time to campaign for greater provision and services for Derry.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Health, Social Service and Public Safety said: “Arrangements have been put in place to ensure that critical services will be maintained.
“For the duration of the industrial action cover will be provided for emergency services and activities. This will include some outpatients, inpatients and the most vulnerable who require care in a community setting and in Residential and Children’s homes. There will be cancellation of non-critical planned procedures and appointments.
“While every effort will be made to maintain services as far as possible, it is likely that patients and clients may experience delays on the day.
“Health care providers will take steps to inform patients and clients of the impact of the industrial action, where this is necessary, however patients and clients should check with their local health care provider for information.”