Ambulance service shakeup to reduce overcrowding

The National Ambulance Service has taken a number of steps to improve its service and reduce hospital overcrowding in Donegal.

Councillor Ciaran Brogan recently asked the National Ambulance Service for an updated report on improvements and the investment in the ambulance service in the Donegal area in the last three years to improve the level of service.

A detailed response was provided by the HSE which included confirmation of the expansion of Buncrana roster from an 8 to 12 hours shift, seven days per week and the expansion of the Stranorlar roster to now operate 24/7 which encompasses the inclusion of a night crew seven days per week.


An emerging threat team operating seven days a week is now in operation and is responsible for all Covid-19 treatments, while a 24/7 tactical shift manager has been appointed to provide additional governance inside of normal operating hours and governance outside of these hours.

The addition of a hospital ambulance liaison also aims to safeguard response capacity by reducing ambulance turnaround times and initiate measures to free up ambulances quicker.

In an attempt to avoid hospital admittance, there has been a change over from a pilot project to inclusion in everyday operations of the Community Paramedic Programme while the Pathfinder system has been installed to enhance hospital avoidance measures and it is due to go live on April 3 2023.

There has also been an introduction of and training of staff on new clinical practice guidelines which enhances advance life support and hospital avoidance measures.

In terms of resources, an additional 12 Paramedics are being utilised for the backfill of operational shifts due to staff absences with two new Community Paramedics.

Twelve Emergency Ambulances have been replaced to keep in line with National Ambulance Service fleet replacement programme, while further investment in the fleet since 2020 includes replacement intermediate care vehicles, three replacement response vehicles, two lorries for transportation of major emergency equipment supporting front line service and one pathfinder vehicle.

The Letterkenny ambulance base has been retrofitted along with the introduction of an additional five ambulance parking spaces, while the new bases built in Donegal Town and Stranorlar which are now fully operational. A spokesperson for the NAS said the ambulance service in the west has faced significant challenges since 2020 having been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic.


“With Covid-19, we had to find ways to deal with service demands while striving to keep patients and staff as safe as possible and try to maintain the level of service during Covid staff absences. The surging infection rates over this winter assures that Covid-19 is still a threat especially to those with other serious underlying medical conditions and the elderly. The National Ambulance Service (NAS) developed a 7-day community testing service in conjunction with CHO1, which commenced in March 2020. The NAS plays an ongoing key role in swabbing.

“It also played a vital role in the rollout of the vaccination programme both as vaccinators and in the establishment of temporary vaccine clinics.”

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