The ongoing strain on ambulance services across the east Antrim region has been highlighted by stark figures released last month.
The statistics, which were obtained after the Times submitted a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request, illustrate the potentially dangerous gaps in staffing coverage.
The issue came to light after a Facebook post by police on December 11, which stated the only ambulance in service across Whiteabbey, Larne and Carrick had been unavailable to attend call-outs due to an incident the previous day.
PSNI and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) spokespersons were quick to state in the days following there had been ample coverage.
However, the figures obtained by the Times with regards to the coverage on December 10, show that staff had to join up to make a full ambulance crew. The figures show how there are two set shifts.
On the day shift in Larne, four staff were meant to be working. In reality, there was only one staff member. In Whiteabbey, two staff were scheduled to be on. However, there was only one working. In Carrick, the two planned staff members were working. Commenting on the coverage, a NIAS spokesperson said: “The one member of staff available on day shift in Larne was joined up with the single colleague available in Whiteabbey to make a full crew.”
On the night shift, two staff were meant to be on in Larne. On the date in question, none were there. In Carrick, two were planned, with one actually being on. In Whiteabbey, the two planned staff spaces were covered.
Commenting, Cllr Paul Hamill said: “These worrying figures raise the question as to whether there is a sufficient number of people being trained to fill the spaces. Ambulance staff are always prepared to go the extra mile and can’t be faulted, but the service is stretched.”