I am raising the issue of ambulance services in County Meath again. I believe the problems in the county are replicated in other parts of the country. A number of years ago, County Meath was served by four ambulances. This number had decreased to three by 2010. It was decided earlier this year that just two ambulances would be provided on two days of the week, Tuesday and Friday. I understand that just one ambulance is now available in the entire county due to significant rostering problems and a lack of overtime provision. This is happening at a time when there is significant pressure on ambulance services. Ambulances cannot always go to local hospitals because service reductions mean those hospitals usually have to be bypassed. It is significant that the call centre for ambulances in the north east is now based in Dublin, rather than being based locally.
When a woman who lives five minutes from the hospital in Navan had a serious stroke two weeks ago, it took 40 minutes for an ambulance to come from Drogheda, arrive at her house and bring her to the hospital in Navan. When an infant tragically died at the start of this year, the family had to wait an extended period of time for an ambulance to arrive. I will mention some other incidents that took place recently. An ambulance had to come from Ardee, County Louth to deal with a fatal road traffic accident in the south of County Meath. A serious non-fatal accident on the bad roads of the south west of the county was dealt with by an ambulance from Ardee. A person in the south of the county who suffered a cardiac arrest had to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. When an eight year old girl in Navan was pinned down by an industrial-sized gate two weeks ago, it took 50 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Ambulances are coming from towns like Mullingar and Portlaoise to serve County Meath. Ambulances occasionally have to travel from County Down into County Louth because the nearest available ambulance to deal with an incident in Dundalk is in Navan. Recently, a garda had to be asked to drive an ambulance in County Meath because just one member of the ambulance staff was available. This information has been provided to me by ambulance personnel, fire service personnel and patients. These people are living in a culture of fear and silence. They feel afraid to discuss such service breakdowns with local Deputies. In my view, every citizen should have the constitutional right to consult their Member of Parliament.
Some months ago, I tabled a parliamentary question asking the Minister to investigate these issues before any further changes were made in the region. I asked for the key performance indicators from County Meath and the rest of the north-east region to be made available. The response I received from the Minister referred me on to HIQA and the HSE. HIQA did not provide me with the key performance indicators because - believe it or not - it does not maintain key performance indicators for the ambulance service on a regional basis. Anybody who knows anything about management will understand that one cannot manage if one cannot measure. If the HSE, HIQA, the Minister or the Department of Health do not have the key performance indicators needed to measure the performance of the ambulance service in County Meath or the north east as a whole following these cuts, how is the Minister able to manage the manner in which this critical, front-line emergency service is provided to the people of the county? I sent an e-mail to the National Ambulance Service 12 days ago to look for the key performance indicators for the region and the county. When I contacted the service today because it had not acknowledged my letter, I learned that it has not started to look for the information I am seeking. Will the Minister provide the key performance indicators for the region to the House?