Ambulance crews demand end to ‘unfit’ temporary base at Merlin Park

The container-style accommodation used by ambulance crews at Merlin Park hospital.

A portable cabin used by ambulance personnel has tested positive for E coli and the facility has been deemed as unfit for purpose.

But, after almost three years using this temporary base, the Galway City Ambulance Service has been informed that they will be based on the Merlin Park location for a further extended period.

Deputy Catherine Connolly has been told that the temporary base will be upgraded this year and that there are plans to build a permanent base.

Their current home on the Merlin Park campus was supposed to be temporary to make way for the building of a multi-storey car park on the University Hospital Galway campus.

The helipad was moved to a nearby field at around the same time almost three years ago but neither have been returned to the hospital campus. The temporary move was due to last for six months.

Deputy Connolly, after visiting the base, immediately called on Minister for Health, Simon Harris to clarify the status of the ambulance service’s permanent base.

This week, Deputy Connolly welcomed the news but added it was slow progress on a building she described as unfit for purpose.

The Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer, Oliver Reilly has replied to queries from the Deputy: “The Galway City Ambulance Base has been on a temporary site on the grounds of Merlin Park hospital since the summer of 2014.

“This was to accommodate the building of a car park on the grounds of University College Hospital Galway (UCHG) in 2014 and was originally intended to be a temporary arrangement of 6-8 months duration. However, due to other developments at UCHG the hospital was no longer in a position to accommodate the return of the NAS crews and vehicles to the base.

It is believed that the increasing frustration experienced by the ambulance staff is causing stress and that stress leave has “gone through the roof.”

Deputy Noel Grealish said ambulance staff faced traumatic scenes in the course of their daily work and that HSE West had a duty of care towards them.

“It’s not on for paramedics not to have adequate shower or sluice facilities, especially after tending a road accident. And I’ve been told the running water supply is brown and has tested positive for ‘safe levels of E coli’ which adds insult to injury.

“The kitchen, rest room and locker rooms are congested. They are freezing in winter and not ventilated in summer. These are not suitable working conditions for any staff, let alone personnel who face emergencies every day. There is only one working computer between them, the list is endless,” said Deputy Grealish.
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