herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Emergency crews see red over plan to centralise dispatch

A ROW is developing over the decision that Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) will no longer be responsible for ambulance dispatch duties.

The decision was announced by Dublin City Council manager Owen Keegan last night, resulting in one union representing fire fighters warning that it increases the likelihood of industrial action.

Mr Keegan said that the National Ambulance Service (NAS) will be taking over responsibility for all calls in Dublin, ending the current system where some calls are routed through DFB and others are answered by the NAS emergency operations centre in Tallaght.

He said that the decision was made to increase efficiency following a Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report that said that on some days, up to 50pc of all emergency calls received by DFB may be delayed due to non-availability of units to respond.

SIPTU official Brendan O'Brien this morning argued that "80pc of all life threatening calls are responded to within the HIQA target by Dublin Fire Brigade".

"The reason they are able to deliver that high level of service is by having an integrated system where DFB take the calls and dispatch the appliances," he said.

He rejected criticism of the efficiency of the DFB operation, saying: "When they (HIQA) are talking about inefficiencies and poor coordination they are referring ... to how management liaise with each other."

Mr O'Brien insisted that DFB's emergency response system offers "excellent" value for money.

He said that his members opposed the move and that there is already unrest over proposals to cut crew levels.

"The prospect of industrial action has increased on foot of what Dublin City Council has said," Mr O'Brien told RTE Radio.

Earlier, city manager Mr Keegan said the plan had been agreed with the HSE that there will be one call-taking centre - the NAS facility in Tallaght. It will be responsible for dispatching NAS and DFB ambulance units. The DFB will come under NAS clinical governance.

He said that a lack of coordination between the two services has had an "adverse impact for patient safety", and that HIQA had said "the two agencies must get their act together ... and put patient safety first".

"The agreement we have reached with the NAS is intended to do just that," Mr Keegan added.

The HSE and DCC will now set up an implementation group to see how to progress the plan over the next six months.

hnews@herald.ie

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