Responders group set up as Limerick ambulances take ‘too long’

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Volunteerism at its very best: Newport Community First Responders group launched in Ryan's bar. They will attend to 999 calls for cardiac arrest, chest pain, choking, stroke and breathing difficulties and aim to educate locals on how to respond to emergencies
FOURTEEN men and women have volunteered their medical expertise to their parish as it takes “too long” for ambulances to arrive.

FOURTEEN men and women have volunteered their medical expertise to their parish as it takes “too long” for ambulances to arrive.

Newport Community First Responders was launched recently in Ryan’s bar. Ciara O’Toole, PRO, said they have 14 ready to go and another eight being trained up.

“We have nurses and emergency medical technicians so we have got the go ahead to be an enhanced group due to the experience we have,” said Ciara.

The young mum got involved because, “I know it takes too long for an ambulance to get to Newport. I had to call one out for a nine-month-old baby and it took 25 minutes to get here. It depends on the time of the day - if they are caught up in school traffic or Crescent Shopping Centre traffic. Then, there is the Mackey roundabout hold up as well. We are on the wrong side of town, there is no easy way out.

“If someone goes into cardiac arrest, started choking or there was a real emergency there is only eight minutes worth of oxygen in the blood to keep you alive. So if you don’t get seen to within eight minutes your chances of survival are practically nil,” said Ciara.

She stresses that the time it takes to get to Newport is no reflection on the ambulance service, it is just geography.

“We are just too far away. The ambulance service in Limerick is completely under-resourced at the moment,” said Ciara, who volunteers with them for the occasional shift.

“They are constantly on the go and they cover such a large area - they go down to Charleville, up to Galway, Clare, North Tipperary and Limerick,” said Ciara.

Their aim is to get to a patient within five minutes. A popular man in the parish passed away from a cardiac arrest last year.

“There is a defibrillator in the community centre but basically nobody knew how to use it. That’s why three or four started to say we will get this going, then I got contacted because I am with St John Ambulance and another chap from the Red Cross. We have done the training for everybody,” said Ciara, who appeals for funds and more volunteers. They will get a Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council qualification, recognised internationally.

“If you had a cardiac arrest in Dooradoyle you would survive. If you had a cardiac arrest in Newport you would die. Dying because of your location is not a very nice reason to die,” she says.

They are linked into the National Ambulance Service and will respond to 999 calls for cardiac arrest, chest pain, choking, stroke, breathing difficulties. When a person calls 999 we get dispatched with the ambulance. A person will have a designated phone and a defibrillator sponsored by Bank of Ireland in Nenagh, We can get there definitely between three and eight minutes so we will be there for 10, 15, 20 minutes maybe before the ambulance crew gets there,” said Ciara.

They will be on call from 7pm to 7am in the evenings and 24 hours at weekends.

Some are available during the day and as numbers increase they aim to increase their hours and area covered from a two mile radius of the town centre to five miles.