WHEN Castlederg man Paul Lynch began a new business supplying private ambulances two years ago he could never have imagined how quickly his work environment would change.
With a background in logistics – running taxis and coaches – Paul decided to branch out into a new field. With the help of his father and brother they set up Western Ambulance Service NI (WASNI) at the start of 2019.
From simple beginnings with one ambulance Paul’s initial business plan envisaged him attending football matches and concerts to provide medical support when needed, or helping to transport patients between hospitals or taking people for kidney dialysis. However then Covid struck and the Derg team were called upon to help an under pressure health service.
Now with nine ambulances and around 20 full and part-time staff, WASNI are providing support to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) as it deals with the pandemic.
Outlining the ethos of his business Paul explained, “There are two main parts to our work – patient transfer and emergency support. We are all about patient care – they are at the centre of everything we do, and that is embedded in all our staff.
“Covid has definitely made it a lot busier. In the last year we have purchased a number of new ambulances and recruited more staff, from first responder up to nurses and paramedics, to deal with the demand. This ethos of hygiene and cleanliness is really important in this line of work and even more so in Covid times.
“The patients and the staff have to be protected,” he explained. “After we have a Covid patient in the ambulance it is thoroughly deep cleaned inside and out to prevent contamination. We are going in and out of hospitals so we need to make sure we are not spreading any virus into the hospital or back out into the community.
“The staff need to be protected as well, so they have all their Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – gowns, gloves, face masks and visor. Of course you have your concerns when you are dealing with a Covid situation and we have to be extremely careful at all times. This was all crucial from the start of our business but there is an greater emphasis on it now.
“The business has certainly been building, and from March last year there has been a really high demand, we now have 20 full and part-time staff and are currently recruiting. We are there to provide support to the NIAS, especially when they are under pressure with staff off with Covid or if they need to isolate,” Mr Lynch continued.
“We supply ambulances on a daily basis to assist our colleagues in the NIAS. They will specify where they want it – that could be in Belfast, or the Northern Trust or closer to home, wherever they need the help.
“We also need to keep bank staff available at all times in case a situation develops – something like all the residents of a nursing home needing to be transferred to a different facility so a deep clean can be carried out – we need to be able to react quickly if something like this happens,” Mr Lynch explained.
“The really rewarding part of the job is being able to help people when they are in need and that’s what all our staff try to do,” he added.