Concerns have been voiced after a pensioner had to wait a number of hours for an ambulance at the weekend in Newtownabbey.
The Times understands an ambulance was called for the elderly woman who resides at the Rathmore Manor sheltered housing scheme shortly after 12am on Sunday morning (June 30).
However, an ambulance did not arrive at the Knockview Road site until almost three hours later.
Scheme Manager at the Alpha Housing operated facility, Denise Cherry said: “The lady has been suffering with vomiting and diarroea for six weeks. She has received medical treatment during this period, but her symptoms got worse over the weekend.
“I can’t fault the NIAS staff, they were excellent. We need politicians making decisions or someone will die due to these long waiting times.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said: “The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service regrets that it was unable to provide a more rapid response to the patient who dialled 999 on Sunday, June 30.
“NIAS received the 999 call at 12.02am in relation to this incident. Based on details provided by the caller, the call was prioritised as requiring a Category B response –non-life threatening.
“All crews that were on duty that night, in this area, were engaged on other calls prior to this one being received. NIAS was in a position to provide an ambulance response to the call at 2.49am – two hours and 47 minutes after the receipt of the call.
“Following assessment and initial treatment at the scene, the patient was taken to
Antrim Area Hospital.”
The spokesperson added: “NIAS is currently moving forward with the implementation a new Clinical Response Model which will ensure that the sickest patients will get the quickest response and we will provide the most appropriate response to suit the clinical needs of all other callers.
“NIAS has identified, through an independent ‘Demand and Capacity Review’ that approximately 330 additional staff will be required to support the introduction of the new model, of which more than 120 will be paramedics. NIAS should be in position to deliver full benefits of the new model by 2021/22.”
Commenting on the issue, South Antrim Alliance MLA John Blair, said: “This incident is evidence of the strain that the Ambulance Service is under. Our paramedics do an incredible job with severely limited resources, but we must do more to protect patients.
“This is exactly the type of issue that a Stormont Assembly should be dealing with. If a Minister was in place, they could start implementing recent health reviews.
“However, our local services continue to be collateral damage in the political stalemate.”