I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, for taking this matter, although I was hoping it would be the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly. I am seeking an update on the site for the new ambulance base for Carlow town and the delays people are experiencing in waiting for ambulances.
I welcome the announcement of the new ambulance base. This went into the capital plan recently, which is welcome. My understanding is the site is at Kelvin Grove, Carlow town. I want an update on the project and its timescale. As the Minister of State knows, ambulance paramedics in Carlow are in a prefab that is unfit for purpose. It is now 2022 and I think it is unacceptable that ambulance paramedics, who do an excellent job, are in a prefab. I am looking for an update on that issue.
My second question is about ambulance waiting times. I have spoken over the years to several ambulance paramedics. My opinion is that the system is wrong and needs to be looked at. When people call for an ambulance, for many, it can be the luck of the draw as to where an ambulance is at that particular time.
I received an email from a constituent who stated that he was waiting for an ambulance in Carlow town for over an hour. He made several calls but no ambulance arrived. He ended up having to go to his neighbour's house to get a lift to the hospital. Luckily, this was not a life-and-death situation but he highlighted it to me. In another case, a young man had been knocked down and was lying in a recovery position. To be fair, he had been attended to but, again, my understanding is that it was well over an hour before the ambulance arrived. In the next case, a man contacted the office who had an emergency call-out to his house. This man is 75 years old. When the emergency arose at 9 p.m., the doctor rang for an ambulance but the ambulance did not arrive until 12.50 a.m. that night. The man is a diabetic with a heart condition and has been in hospital with a very serious condition.
I want to know if anything else can be done in such situations. This is by no means a criticism of any work that is being done by the ambulance paramedics. Is the system working? Do we need more staff? What do we need to do to address this? The Minister of State knows it is wrong to have a 75-year-old man waiting in his home for an ambulance to call. It is unacceptable and we need to address it. Again, I stress it is the system, not the work that the ambulance paramedics are doing.
As the Minister of State is present, he knows I have been raising the issue of the primary care centre for Tullow for the last few years and I am looking for an update on that. If he does not have it tonight, I ask that he would put that in his correspondence to me when he comes back with an answer.