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Health Minister’s stance on south Armagh ambulance cover criticized

Bringing the issue of ambulance cover in south Armagh to the attention of the Assembly recently, Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon says she is “deeply disappointed” at Health Minister Simon Hamilton’s response to the matter.

Ms Fearon says she questioned the Minister on 19th February over what steps were being taken to improve ambulance cover in south Armagh, however it was five weeks later before she received a less-than-satisfactory reply.

“His answer, when it did come, hurried out in the last days of the Assembly, contained nothing of substance for the people of the area,” she said.

“This is an incredibly serious issue; literally life and death, which is why, firstly, I’m hugely disappointed that it took the Minister five weeks to reply to my question.

“He even went so far as to cite the First Responder Scheme in his reply, an organisation set up by the community because of the lack of adequate ambulance cover in the area. I find it astonishing that the Minister is now relying on a community group that was set up to try and offset the potentially tragic consequences of his failure to provide proper ambulance cover for South Armagh.”

Ms Fearon went on to reveal details of a recent incident which highlights such inadequate cover: “A guitarist took a heart attack during a gig in a south Armagh GAA club.  Thankfully, he is fine and the paramedics who treated him were exceptional.  However, the band playing was able to call a replacement guitarist who, at short notice, was able to come from Banbridge and was on stage playing before the ambulance even arrived,” she revealed.

“This is not a criticism of the paramedics, who do an outstanding job with the resources they are given, this is an issue of the distribution of those resources and it seems quite clear to me that the Minister has decided the people of south Armagh can just do without,” she added.

“It’s unacceptable and neither myself, nor the people of south Armagh, are going to stand for it.”