ISLANDERS on Mull have claimed an ‘accident is waiting to happen’ after claiming a review has left them with a lack of ambulance cover.
A heated meeting between community representatives and the Scottish Ambulance Service is to take place tonight after the area and Iona was left with one ambulance.
Campaigners claim that one emergency vehicle is inadequate to cover the 240 mile of mainly single track roads on the islands which attract about 250,000 visitors a year.
The Scottish Ambulance Service has caused consternation by claiming there is no need for it to provide a second vehicle.
Billy McClymont, Chairman of Mull Community Council, and fellow islanders Fiona Brown and Colin Morgan, said: “As the community representatives through this whole process we are completely disillusioned and feel that the communities of Mull and Iona have been completely let down.”
Argyll MSP Michael Russell said: “Like the community I completely reject the proposal now coming from the SAS. “I am also very concerned that after eighteen months those who run the service are still trying to impose a solution to suit their organisation but which local experience shows is the wrong one and moreover one that was not chosen by the options process which took place last year.
“I have gone back to the Cabinet Secretary to tell her that SAS is still attempting to ride roughshod over the community and that must stop and I am now also tabling a motion in the Scottish Parliament to make that point.” Mr Russell said he believed these meetings confirmed the ‘unelected boards’ of the SAS and NHS Highland were “out of touch” with the strength of feeling in the community.
Local residents had not asked for a second ambulance but had favoured a review option for a paramedic and fast response vehicle to be brought in as a back-up.
However, the ambulance service favours an option which wouldn’t cost it anything, using an NHS Highland doctor, based at Craignure, as its 999 call back-up.
Mull Community Councillor Fiona Brown said: “It’s an accident waiting to happen, a high risk strategy, will it take someone to die before things change?”
“How can the NHS 24 doctor leave on a 999 call if there is an ambulance coming in with another 999 call?
“Ninety per cent of our roads are single track and the locum doctors don’t know the roads.
“They say there has only been one incident in the last three years when two 999 calls have come in at the same time but we know there have been other instances when another ambulance was needed.”
She said that recently an elderly man was told the ambulance was too busy dealing with an incident elsewhere after he struck his head.
A SAS spokesman said it was committed to meeting community needs and added: “A thorough and robust options appraisal was undertaken by the Mull and Iona Health Care Review Group and we have engaged extensively with the community throughout that process.
“Along with other NHS colleagues from the Health Care Review Group, we are meeting with communities in Mull on March 7 to continue to engage and explain proposals, which are based on detailed analysis of demand patterns, volumes and the potential impact of skills atrophy.
“Recent work has resulted in an upgrade to paramedic cover, the establishment of Community First Responder Groups and provision for two 24/7 landing sites for air ambulance helicopters, which support local ambulance teams whenever required.”