The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) said today (Tuesday, Jan 14 th ) the development of integrated fire based Emergency Medical Services (EMS) on a national basis offers the best hope of addressing the problems faced by the National Ambulance Service in meeting emergency response times set down by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

IFESA National Chairman, John Kidd said the lack of policy on the development of the fire based EMS is just one of the consequences of the failure to implement a co-ordinated National Fire and Ambulance Service for the entire country.

‘The current structure of the emergency services which is fragmented and top heavy with management, is wasteful, inefficient and incapable of meeting response time targets when resources are being cut across the country. A fire based EMS as part of a National Fire and Ambulance Service will save lives, save costs and meet the most rigid response time demands being set down by HIQA.

Mr Kidd said; ‘A better chance for patient survival is the true measure of quality for any pre-hospital emergency medical system. Fire Fighter Paramedics in Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance service yearly respond to approximately 80,000 medical incidents and have the second best record for surviving out of hospital cardiac arrest in the world as reported by European Society of Cardiology in 2011.'

‘EMS has been a part of the fire service in Dublin for more than 103 years – EMS is not a distraction from their mission - it is one of their core services provided by firefighters and paramedics within Dublin. Above all, rapid response times are a pivotal advantage of fire service-based, pre-hospital 999/112 emergency EMS systems'.

‘Research shows that rapid, on-scene medical intervention produces the best patient outcomes. We have seen the HSE ambulance response time currently coming under criticism and the number of cases were peoples' lives have been effected by the lack of resourcing is increasing'.

‘The fire service in Ireland is best positioned due to the geographical location of fire stations, to deliver this critical care, and if resourced would provide rapid treatment to patients with ambulance service treating and transporting as well . Fire-based EMS provides a comprehensive approach to emergency care, with trained personnel capable of handling most complications'.

‘Ros Mac Cobb IFESA National Vice Chairperson says “We need a system that saves lives, saves time and saves cost. There are options there for policy makers that can deliver on this. IFESA has been the leading advocate for the development and coordination of a National Fire & Ambulance service in Ireland to respond to medical emergencies and the need for such a service now has never been greater.'

‘Fire service-based EMS provides this pivotal public safety service while also emphasising responder safety, competent and compassionate workers, and cost-effective operations. The service most capable of rapid multi-faceted response, rapid identification and triage to the appropriate facility would be the development of a fire service-based EMS system as operates in 90% of North American cities.'

‘The fire service is known for its rapid mobilisation. Firefighters are the nation's first responders and fire-based EMS would get to the scene faster. The fire brigade is geographically deployed throughout the community to minimise response times. The most expensive parts of the EMS system – personnel, apparatus, and facilities – are already being paid for.'

Mr Mac Cobb concluded; ‘As the debate rages about the failure of the current emergency systems to meet critical response times it is time for politicians – national and local - health service planners and the wider community to acknowledge the need for a fire based EMS service which can guarantee compliance with the HILA standards and deliver the best chances of patient survival.'

Media Contacts : John Kidd 087-6588999/ Derek Cunningham 086-2430535