Ambulance staff refuse to spend more time in ‘sauna’ accommodation

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

Ambulance staff say that they cannot spend another winter at what was supposed to be a temporary base at Merlin Park.

This week they welcomed progress on the provision of a permanent base on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital, but that is only at the design stage and will not be completed for at least another three years.

Deputy Catherine Connolly welcomed a reply to her Dáil query on the status of the promised permanent ambulance base for Galway City, but stressed that it was unacceptable to expect the ambulance crews to work out of steel containers which have been described as saunas in the summer and freezers in the winter.

Staff have always maintained that the containers are inadequate and not fit for purpose, not least for health and safety reasons.

The ambulance base was removed from the University Hospital Galway campus three years ago to make way for the building of a multi-storey car park. Initially they had been told it was a temporary measure and that they would be returning to the campus in a new purpose built base.

But that base will now be provided at Merlin Park.

Deputy Connolly had put forward a parliamentary question about the status of both the permanent and temporary ambulance base.

This week she was told that the National Ambulance Service had appointed a design team in relation to the new base and that discussions were ongoing in relation to the upgrading of temporary accommodation at Merlin Park.

The permanent base will not be completed until the first quarter of 2020 and ambulance staff say that they cannot conceive working out of steel containers for another winter.

Deputy Connolly said it wasn’t good enough to expect them to stay put in the temporary base adding that she was working on a resolution to the temporary problem.

“While I welcome the news that the permanent base is being progressed, the ambulance personnel simply cannot be asked to provide an essential service from an inadequate and unsafe building. This was a building that was unsuitable from the start and was meant to be a very short temporary measure. The ambulance staff moved there on that clear understanding. Yet despite that legitimate expectation that this would be temporary, they are now working from the same inadequate premises more than three years later.

“This is simply not good enough and the HSE and/or the Minister for Heath will have to make funding available for suitable temporary accommodation until such time as the new building has been constructed,” she added.