News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 30th March 2014

New whistleblower fears backlash when she returns to work


An ambulance whistle-blower believes there are not enough ambulances in the mid-west region to cover a major emergency like a plane crash.

Shirley McEntee above, an ambulance controller and trained paramedic in Limerick, warned that crews in the mid-west were “run ragged” and “going without food for hours” trying to respond to patients because of a lack of ambulances.

M/s McEntee, who appeared in the recent RTE ‘Prime Time’ edition featuring the ambulance service, raised concerns about the impact of a major disaster on the emergency services in the mid-west region.

“The lads are great, but there is still not enough vehicles to cover an emergency – if a plane crashed – there is definitely not enough ambulances for it,” she said.

“There’s only two crews on a Monday and Tuesday night in Limerick. There’s no such thing as peak time in all fairness.

“It could be a Sunday afternoon at 2pm or it could be 2am. It could be anytime.

“You can’t really give a peak time for an emergency service.” Currently on sick leave, M/s McEntee is due back at work next week.

And she said she fears repercussion from management for going public about her allegations that the service is completely overstretched.

M/s McEntee said she had not heard from management since her appearance on the programme but she has received backing from co-workers.

She added: “It’s time that the paramedics and advanced paramedics got someone to stick up for them, because they’re brilliant at their jobs,” she told Joe Nash, presenter of ‘Limerick Today’ on Live 95fm.

“They work very, very, very hard. They don’t get official lunch breaks; they mightn’t get anything to eat for hours. They just need a bit of praise as well.”

HSE director general Tony O’Brien said that he has “considerable confidence” in the ambulance service and its leadership.

However, he said that “nobody” in the HSE believed the service is “where it needs to be” and significant change was taking place.

HSE are asked to reveal if staff claim mileage expense for rapid response services


Dublin’s emergency fire and ambulance workers have called on the HSE to reveal if their staff claim mileage for using its rapid response vehicles.

And the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has confirmed it is to conduct a six-month review of the country’s ambulance service.

The review was confirmed by HIQA deputy director Mary Dunnion, who said that overseas ambulance executives will be consulted.

It is not directly related to the revelations in an RTE Prime Time programme about delays in ambulances arriving at critical call-outs and some parts of the country being effectively left without ambulance cover during busy periods.

The programme also claimed that expensive National Ambulance Service (NAS) resources are under-utilised, with some rapid response vehicles used more like company cars.


The NAS has hit back at the allegations, insisting it was offering “a world-class service”.

However, the investigation revealed that the number of emergency ambulances in Ireland has been reduced from 320 in 2008 to 265 last year.

The programme also showed that HSE supervisors are using the specially kitted-out SUVs and cars for personal transport.

The vehicles with sirens and lights are branded as ambulances and designed to be used to administer emergency treatment but not to carry patients.

While the HSE told RTE the vehicles can be pressed into action if needed, the Prime Time programme found many are being used like company cars.

“I want to know if staff using these vehicles are claiming mileage,” said John Kidd, chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association.

“It’s totally wrong that these vehicles which cost millions to the taxpayer are being used in this way while the ambulance fleet is breaking down.”


The HSE could not answer the question on whether mileage was being claimed for the use of rapid response vehicles, but said during the period January to March 2014 the vehicles were used in 629 emergency call-outs, 252 of which were outside working hours.

Mr Kidd also said the national ambulance service should be reported to the Revenue to see if benefit-in-kind should be paid on the rapid response vehicles if HSE staff are using them as personal transport.

The HSE is trying to take over Dublin Fire Brigade’s provision of the ambulance service in the capital in its efforts to form a national ambulance service for the whole country.

But Mr Kidd said with Dublin Fire Brigade responding to 40pc of the national ambulance calls, but only receiving 8pc of the national budget, he finds it hard to understand how the HSE would save money in the move without depleting services.

Big death risk for Irish fishermen working in their industry

(44 killed in 10 years)


A total of 44 fishermen have been killed in the last 10 years, in 24 separate fatal incidents

Irish fishermen are 40 times more likely to be killed doing their job than the average worker, a new safety campaign has warned.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) highlighted the stark statistic as it launched an awareness raising drive aimed at reducing rates of death and serious injury in the fishing sector.

A total of 44 fishermen have been killed in the last 10 years, in 24 separate fatal incidents.

The HSA said the main cause of the incidents was a vessel taking on water or capsizing and then sinking.

The next most common cause of fatalities was entanglement in nets or other gear and being dragged overboard.

The authority said in many cases the fishermen were not wearing personal flotation devices.

The sea fishing industry in Ireland has a workforce of almost 5,000 people directly employed and a registered fleet in excess of 2,100 vessels.

The HSA said in the last five years the fatality rate in the general working population was 2.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, while in fishing it was 92 per 100,000 workers.

Martin O’Halloran, chief executive with the HSA, said the campaign would highlight the dangers involved and the importance of properly managing safety and health before leaving port and while at sea.

“There’s no doubt that fishing is a dangerous job and fishermen often work under very dangerous and extreme conditions where the smallest oversight can lead to disaster,” he said.

“Under these circumstances it’s vital that skippers manage the risks and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their crew. Carrying out a risk assessment and preparing a safety statement for their boat will help skippers and owners identify the risks in advance and help to avoid the types of accidents we’ve seen all too often.

“Our inspectors regularly come across the same types of issues including injuries and ill health caused by slips and trips, entanglement, poor manual handling and general unsafe systems of work.

“We will continue to consult with fishermen and engage with industry stakeholders with a view to raising awareness.

“But it’s vital that skippers and fishermen manage the very serious risks they’re facing and work to ensure that tragedy doesn’t strike their boat.”

Mr O’Halloran said in a series of inspections carried out last November it was found that only 30% of fishermen inspected had a safety statement and only one in five had completed a risk assessment.

“We are concerned at the relatively low levels of compliance with the requirement to have a risk assessment and safety statement for fishing boats,” he said.

“Completing this process has been shown to be highly effective in managing risk and reducing accidents across other industry sectors and can be equally effective in the fishing sector. This is obviously in everyone’s interest, but most of all for the fishermen themselves.”

Daylight saving time linked to heart attacks,

A study finds


Summertime began when clocks went forward by an hour at 1am today LAST sATURDAY.

Switching over to daylight saving time, and losing one hour of sleep, raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 25 per cent, compared to other Mondays during the year, according to a new US study released today.

Switching over to daylight saving time, and losing one hour of sleep, raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 25 per cent, compared to other Mondays during the year, according to a new US study released today.

The study was released yesterday ahead of summertime beginning in Ireland this morning at 1am, when the clocks went forward by one hour.

The study found that heart attack risk fell 21 per cent later in the year, on the Tuesday after the clock was returned to standard time, and people got an extra hour’s sleep.

The not-so-subtle impact of moving the clock forward and backward was seen in a comparison of hospital admissions from a database of non-federal Michigan hospitals. It examined admissions before the start of daylight saving time and the Monday immediately after, for four consecutive years.

In general, heart attacks historically occur most often on Monday mornings, maybe due to the stress of starting a new work week and inherent changes in our sleep-wake cycle, said Dr Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver who led the study.

“With daylight saving time, all of this is compounded by one less hour of sleep,” said Dr Sandhu, who presented his findings at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology inWashington.

A link between lack of sleep and heart attacks has been seen in previous studies. But Dr Sandhu said experts still don’t have a clear understanding of why people are so sensitive to sleep-wake cycles.

“Our study suggests that sudden, even small changes in sleep could have detrimental effects,” he said.

Dr Sandhu examined about 42,000 hospital admissions in Michigan, and found that an average of 32 patients had heart attacks on any given Monday. But on the Monday immediately after springing the clock forward, there were an average of eight additional heart attacks, he said.

The overall number of heart attacks for the full week after daylight saving time didn’t change, just the number on that first Monday. The number then dropped off the other days of the week.

People who are already vulnerable to heart disease may be at greater risk right after sudden time changes, said Dr Sandhu, who added that hospital staffing should perhaps be increased on the Monday after clocks are set forward.

“If we can identify days when there may be surges in heart attacks, we can be ready to better care for our patients,” he said.

The clock typically moves ahead in the spring, so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less, and returns to standard time in the fall.

Daylight saving time was widely adopted during World War I to save energy, but some critics have questioned whether it really does so and whether it is still needed.

Researchers cited limitations to the study, noting it was restricted to one state and heart attacks that required artery-opening procedures, such as stents. The study therefore excluded patients who died prior to hospital admission or intervention.

Wet red sand residue on cars in Dublin following recent rainfall is sand from Sahara Desert 


Motorists all over Dublin woke up this morning to see a strange dust covering their cars. Pictures Declan Masterson Photography

A simple explanation has been given for the red-brown sandy residue left on cars across the east and south of the country following last night’s rainfall.

Motorists in parts of the country woke up to a strange dust covering their cars this morning.

The spattering of mud on windscreens and bonnets is dust from the Sahara desert, Met Eireannexplained.

Strong winds over North Africa last night brought sand from the desert to parts of Europe, including the south and east coasts of Ireland.

It is not uncommon but last night’s rainfall meant the sand fell as wet mud spots instead of a light dusting.

Don’t get the car sponges out just yet though as similar winds are to stay in place for the next few days, meaning more wet mud spots are likely to fall on your car or windows again.

Former Archbishop Williams warns of a climate catastrophe


Dr. Rowan Williams’ (pictured above left) plea to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels comes on the eve of the publication of the most authoritative study yet into the impact of climate change 

The former Archbishop of Canterbury argues that Western lifestyles bear the responsibility for causing climate change in world’s poorest regions

Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has attacked Western lifestyles for causing climate change that is “pushing the environment towards crisis”.

Writing in the Telegraph, Dr Williams says that the “appalling” floods and storms that devastated parts of Britain this winter were a demonstration of “what we can expect” in the future.

He also takes a sideswipe at climate change sceptics.

The floods in Britain and weather-related “catastrophes” in the poorest countries on Earth, he insists, are the clearest indications yet that predictions of “accelerated warming of the Earth” caused by “the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels … are coming true”.

His plea to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels comes on the eve of the publication of the most authoritative study yet into the impact of climate change.

On Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its latest study – running to thousands of pages – on the consequences of the predicted rise in global temperatures.

The report, according to the latest leaked draft, will claim the cost of combating the effects of a 4.5F (2.5C) rise in temperature by the end of the century will be £60 billion a year. It will warn that the impact of climate change will be felt most keenly in Africa, South America and Asia and predicts droughts, food shortages and a rise in diseases such as malaria.

Climate change sceptics argue that if the planet is warming up, it is not clear that it is because of the actions of man. They point out errors in previous IPCC reports and accuse the global warming industry of ratcheting up the risks of climate change, which have subsequently led to the cripplingly expensive introduction of green energy policies.

But Dr Williams, who quit as leader of the Anglican Church just over a year ago, writes: “We have heard for years the predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels will lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth. What is now happening indicates that these predictions are coming true; our actions have had consequences that are deeply threatening for many of the poorest communities in the world.

“Rich, industrialised countries, including our own, have unquestionably contributed most to atmospheric pollution. Both our present lifestyle and the industrial history of how we created such possibilities for ourselves have to bear the responsibility for pushing the environment in which we live towards crisis.”

Dr Williams, writing in his capacity as chairman of Christian Aid, said that the winter storms that battered Britain had brought climate change to the fore in this country and that the IPCC report publishedat a specially convened meeting in Yokohama in Japan tomorrow puts “our local problems into a deeply disturbing global context”.

The IPCC, he says, will be “pointing out that … we [the UK] have in fact got off relatively lightly in comparison with others”.

While the “chaos [of the flood] came as a shock to many”, other countries in the developing world such as Bangladesh and Kenya among others had suffered far worse catastrophes caused by climate change over many years.

Dr Williams goes on to attack global warming sceptics and climate change deniers. “There are of course some who doubt the role of human agency in creating and responding to climate change, and who argue that we should direct our efforts solely to adapting to changes that are inevitable, rather than modifying our behaviour,” says Dr Williams.

“That approach might be “all very well” in the UK where flood defences and other measures can be adopted relatively cheaply but in the most vulnerable, poorest countries worst affected by global warming that is not an option.”

Dr Williams’s intervention in the climate change debate comes as officials and researchers meeting in Japan finalise the wording of the IPCC study. The report, effectively a collection of the scientific evidence gathered on climate change, will focus on the impacts of global warming. It is expected to say that Africa will be affected by longer droughts that threaten livestock and crop yields.

The IPCC expects to see worsening health as a result with an increase in malnutrition, malaria and other diseases.

Rising temperatures will also affect food production and security in parts of Asia with a fall in rice yields caused by a shorter growing period.

The IPCC report will say that northern parts of Asia will benefit from warmer temperatures, however, leading to increased production of wheat and other cereals. In South America, the IPCC will say that ice and glaciers in the Andes are “retreating at an alarming rate”, affecting water supplies while “unique ecosystems” are threatened both climate change and increasing industrialisation.


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