The future of a proposed new late-night ambulance service for the city is now in doubt, after members of the Galway City Vintners Association decided to boycott the initiative.
An information evening was held by Cara Ambulance Service in the city last week in an attempt to engage with local publicans and nightclub owners about the facility, which would include the provision of a dedicated ambulance staffed by professional paramedics for late-night medical emergencies.
The service would run from 9pm to 4am nightly and would be funded by contributions from the publicans involved.
However, despite being strongly backed by gardaí and Mayor Terry O’Flaherty, the meeting received a very poor attendance and Chairman of Galway City Vintner’s Association Terry Tyson confirmed to the Galway Independent this week that the majority of the organisation’s member “would definitely not be interested in contributing to it”.
Explaining their decision, Mr Tyson said that having a late-night ambulance “depicts Galway as a battlefield” and sends a message to the rest of the country that they are likely to “get involved in a fracas” if they visit the city.
“We do not want to send the message out there that Galway needs a late night ambulance service. We spend millions every year getting people to come to the city and spend money…we do not want to send a message out now that counteracts that message.
“This service is basically saying ‘come along, get as drunk as you want, wherever you want and then don’t worry, we’ll bring you up to the hospital and the publicans will pay for it’. That’s ridiculous, absolutely stupid.”
Mr Tyson added that the majority of local publicans would have little need for an ambulance service and in the case of a medical emergency, transport and paramedics should be provided by the HSE.
“We’re paying enormous rates and taxes and that’s where they should be going, to provide a service for people who are ill late at night. If those people get ill, chances are they’re not getting ill on our premises, they get ill in their own homes by pre-loading and then head into town.
“We have no objection to the concept but we would definitely not be interested in contributing towards it. It makes a lot of sense for the people that are providing the service because you are talking about collecting in excess of €100,000 per annum.”
However, Connor McEvaddy of Cara Ambulance refuted claims that the ambulance would be a “drunk tank” and said it had been “taken up the wrong light”.
“It was unfortunate in its timing, in that it coincided with the students going back to college and people tended to get the idea of a ‘drunk tank’ but the service was set up to deal with medical emergencies happening on premises in the town. It wasn’t, as some people have suggested, carting drunk people off to hospital and filling the A&Es with drunks,” he explained.
And he rejected claims that those involved were looking to make a “massive profit” from the company, adding that there were significant costs involved.
“In the times that we are living in, we all realise the restraints that are on the services that are there already. I suppose we floated the idea because we saw there was a need there and we approached some of the publicans in the city, who seems quite taken with the idea,” said Mr McEvaddy.
Mr McEvaddy said the group were very taken aback by what happened on the night of the information evening.
“The profit in a business like this would be very little and, if there was a good uptake, we were looking at putting a second ambulance on the road. Making massive profits isn’t the idea.”
However, the future of the service is now in doubt, with Mr McEvaddy confirming that “if there’s no take-up on it, then it’s not going to happen”.
“If the support isn’t there for it, it’s not going to happen. At the end of the day, we’re not a charity, so we can’t afford to run it for nothing.”