The ongoing strain on ambulance services has been highlighted by stark figures released this week.
The statistics, which were obtained after the Times submitted a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request, illustrate potentially dangerous gaps in staffing coverage.
The issue came to light after a Facebook post by police on December 11, which stated that the only ambulance in service across Whiteabbey, Larne and Carrickfergus had been unavailable to attend call-outs due to an incident the previous day.
Police and NIAS spokespersons were quick to state in the days following that there had been ample coverage.
However, figures obtained by the Times for coverage on December 10 show that staff from across East Antrim had to join up to make a full ambulance crew. The figures from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service explained how there are two set shifts.
On the day shift in Larne, four staff were meant to be working. In reality, there was only one staff member.
In Whiteabbey, two staff were scheduled to be on. However, there was only one working. In Carrick, the two planned staff members were working. Commenting on the coverage, a NIAS spokesperson said: “The one member of staff available on day shift in Larne was joined up with the single colleague available in Whiteabbey to make a full crew.”
On the night shift, two staff were meant to be on in Larne. On the date in question, none were there. In Carrick, two were planned, with one actually being on. In Whiteabbey, the two planned staff spaces were covered.
Commenting, Cllr Cheryl Johnston said: “It is deeply worrying how resources and ambulance crews are stretched. Ensuring prompt response times must be a priority and enough resources need to be provided in respect of the need throughout the area.”