A community has been left shocked following the death of a young woman in Newry during the early hours of Sunday morning.
The woman, who was in her 30s, collapsed on the street while walking home from a night out with friends.
Due to the shortage of available ambulance crews, paramedics were despatched from Belfast – approximately 40 miles away.
They took 45 minutes to arrive. The lady had passed away before they could come to her aid.
Sinn Féin’s Liz Kimmins said the tragedy has shocked the Newry community.
“I wish to extend my sympathies to the family and the friends of the young woman who died in tragic circumstances in Newry on Sunday,” said Ms Kimmins.
“This tragedy has shocked the local community and a family has been left heartbroken.
“It’s deeply concerning that this young woman died while waiting on an ambulance coming from Belfast due to huge shortages in the Southern Trust.
“Without an urgent intervention to tackle the lack of Ambulance staff, this crisis will continue to get worse.
“The Department of Health must immediately step in and support our health trusts by putting in place the necessary resources to keep our ambulances on the road.”
Alliance Newry and Armagh Assembly candidate Jackie Coade has said more support is needed for the Ambulance Service.
“My thoughts are with the family and friends of this poor woman, as well as the staff members of the Ambulance Service, who I’m sure did their best to reach her and save her life,” said Ms Coade.
“Nobody deserves to die on the street while waiting for the healthcare they need and deserve as standard. Due to increasing pressures, many people now only have the option to have someone else transport them to hospital or in an emergency situation, wait however long it takes, which can lead to the tragic consequences seen this past weekend.
“It is disgraceful the focus is only now being put on the Ambulance Service due to someone having passed away, when they have been crying out for some time for more funding. I, alongside my party colleague Paula Bradshaw MLA, met Michael Bloomfield recently and assured him Alliance understands the health service as a whole needs to be a priority.
“The workers and management are up for the challenge. We must ensure they have the support needed.”
In a statement, the NI Ambulance Service offered their sincere apologies.
“The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service would like to apologise sincerely and offer our condolences to the family and friends of the patient, in Newry, who passed away in the early hours of Sunday 10 April while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance which was despatched from Belfast.
“NIAS regrets that, on the evening of Saturday 9 April, levels of ambulance cover fell below those which had been planned and anticipated, with the Southern Division particularly impacted.”
Adding: “The planned level of resource in Southern Division on Saturday night is 10. On Saturday night only 3 crews were available at the commencement of the shift and this was further depleted by 1 due to onset of illness. Both remaining crews were not available to respond as they were waiting to handover patients at Craigavon ED.
“As NIAS manages the service on a regional basis with the closest available ambulance responding to the next most clinically urgent call, crews from other divisions will have responded to calls in the Southern division.
“NIAS had three A&E support crews and one Independent ambulance crew available to complement the emergency crews. A&E support and independent crews are despatched to lower acuity calls to protect the A&E resource for the most serious and urgent waiting calls.
“NIAS would further apologise to all patients and their carers for any delays experienced as a result of reduced cover.”
Meanwhile, SDLP Assembly election candidate Justin McNulty has called for voters across Newry & Armagh and South Down to rally around Newry City’s hospital and ensure that Daisy Hill isn’t sold down the river in the name of reform.
Speaking after the BBC’s Mark Carruthers tackled SDLP leader Colum Eastwood about his party’s defence of Daisy Hill Hospital, Mr McNulty commented: “The BBC and the Department of Health Press Office, both of whom seem to be reading off the same script, are once again attempting to parochialise Daisy Hill Hospital. They have described my campaign to reinstate emergency services at Daisy Hill as an example of “parish pump politics” which flies in the face of health service reform.
“Let me be clear – the removal of emergency surgery from Daisy Hill Hospital is not part of the Health Service Transformation Programme. It has been allowed to happen because of an abject failure in workforce planning at the Department of Health.
“The pandemic is not the source of all the problems plaguing the health service and handing over a blank cheque on health service reform will not solve those problems.
“The message I am getting on the doors is resounding – our area is always the last to get and the first to lose. I have hope and ambition for the future of Daisy Hill. I want to see our hospital expanded to become a leading cross-border health hub. I want to see investment in cutting edge equipment, I want to see an expansion in our HDU capacity, and I want to see Daisy Hill become an elective surgery hub.
“Newry is a city. As such, we are entitled to a City Hospital. On Election Day, I am asking the people of Newry, South Armagh, and South Down to rally around Daisy Hill Hospital. This is an enormous opportunity for local people to raise their voice, stand their ground, and send a clear message: We will not sit on our hands and allow Daisy Hill to be dismantled.”