I thank the Minister of State for taking the time to discuss this important matter. Last week I met people living with the impact of a stroke in the community. A new stroke support group has been established in County Roscommon, led by the Irish Heart Foundation. One of the issues raised at the meeting was the concern for people who attended the group and every person living in a rural area. We face real challenges in terms of the ability of the ambulance service to respond quickly in rural areas.
The Lightfoot report was published last May. It examined two performance standard response times, namely, eight and 19 minutes. It found that one in 15 ambulances reached patients in need of emergency care within the eight minutes target in rural areas. It also found that ambulances in the west were meeting the 19 minute response time in the case of about 55% of calls. The report provides evidence beyond question of the strong case for the HSE to increase resources in order that we see improvements in ambulance services, especially in identified black spot areas such as west Roscommon. It shows that people who are living in ambulance black spot areas are exposed to an increased risk in terms of delayed intervention, which has been shown to have a negative impact on functional outcomes. For example, the likelihood of recovery after stroke dramatically improves the sooner the patient is assessed and treated.
We also know that ambulances are sometimes forced to wait with patience outside emergency departments for considerable lengths of time before being permitted to transfer patients into emergency departments owing to overcrowding. This further reduces their capacity to deal with other emergencies.
The 2014 HIQA report shows that people from west Roscommon must, on average, wait the longest for an ambulance to arrive. The new ambulance service based at Loughglynn in west Roscommon is being operated by a crew from Roscommon town. We need to deal with the urgency of this matter. Loughglynn was identified as a particular black spot area, as per a 2014 HIQA report. It is not acceptable that no extra resources have been allocated to this area.
We cannot continue to build a health service supporting an urban centre. We know that medical treatments and procedures have become more specialised and centralised, which is really important in delivering the best possible care for patients. However, we need people in rural areas to be able to access the services as quickly as possible to avail of these benefits.
We have seen the immense impact of the air ambulance service which has been positive in improving response times and getting critically ill patients to centres where they can be treated effectively. However, we need the air ambulance service to operate at night time.
The 2014 HIQA and Lightfoot reports provide stark evidence that urgent action is required. Additional ambulances and personnel must be directed towards areas of greatest need. There are real difficulties in rural areas and I ask the Minister of State to outline what the Government is undertaking in terms of an action plan, particularjly in the light of the recent Lightfoot report.