THERE are fears for the future of Lifford ambulance base after the relocation of staff to Stranorlar. The HSE say this is a temporary move while remedial works are carried out at Lifford Hospital however SIPTU are seeking an urgent meeting with management within the National Ambulance Service as they fear that this is an attempt to close the base for good. They say no consultation occurred with its members ahead of the move.
In correspondence seen by the Donegal News to NAS management the union said they were disappointed over the lack of engagement to look at solutions to address immediate and interim arrangements to maintain the base in Lifford.
The letter said: “On the contrary we believe NAS management used this opportunity to in effect close Lifford Ambulance Base. This is unacceptable.”
Difficulties have arisen which has resulted in staff reporting for duty in Lifford to find there was no Emergency Ambulance available as it was moved to Stranorlar.
An equipment carrier was left for their use to go to Stranorlar which in effect leaves the Lifford area absent of an ambulance for the journey time to Stranorlar and back. There are plans to amalgamate Lifford and Stranorlar as one base in a new purpose built facility on the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospital but this is still at discussion stage.
The HSE told the Donegal News: “The National Ambulance Service can confirm that staff in the Finn Valley area are currently operating out of the Stranolar base due to remedial works being carried out at Lifford Hospital.
“Staff are due to return to the Lifford base when works are completed. Also NAS can confirm that it is currently researching the options in relation to a planned permanent relocation of the Lifford staff to a new purpose built facility at Stranolar which is soon due to open.”
The Lifford-based Councillor Gerry Crawford said he was totally opposed to any change in the ambulance service in Lifford and Stranorlar.
He said public representatives were given assurances at a meeting with NAS management in July that there was no definite plan to move staff from Lifford to Stranorlar.
He said while the HSE have said the movement of staff was out of necessity because of work at the hospital he was concerned that this could result in a permanent relocation.
“Because of the ongoing development at Lifford Hospital I have been informed that the ambulance crews are working from Stranorlar. I have been told by ambulance management that this was out of necessity because of the ongoing work on hospital and will have no bearing on discussions that are taking place,” said Cllr Crawford.
“I would still be very concerned that what is being described as a necessary step could develop into a permanent fixture and I would be totally opposed to that.”
Cllr Crawford criticised the lack of consultation with public representatives and staff about the changes and he will be raising his serious concerns at a meeting with NAS management due to take place in September.