herald

Thursday 24 August 2017

Leo Varadkar promised to consult us just three weeks ago, claim Dublin Fire Brigade

leo varadkar
leo varadkar

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar told Dublin Fire Brigade less than three weeks ago that there would be “full consultation with stakeholders” before health watchdog recommendations on the running of the city’s ambulance service would be implemented, according to a letter seen by the Herald.

In the communication to SIPTU’s Brendan O’Brien, the Minister says he is a “strong supporter” of Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) and is “very impressed” with the service it provides.

“I have contacted Mr Martin Dunne, Head of the National Ambulance Service (NAS), who assures me that none of the HIQA recommendations, that relate directly to Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) are being implemented at present, and there will be full consultation with stakeholders,” says the letter, dated February 13.

In it, Minister Varadkar proposed that Brendan O’Brien and himself should meet, once he (Varadkar) has had sight of the Dublin Ambulance Review to guide on future reforms.

But SIPTU’s Brendan O’Brien has said that proposed meeting never got a chance to happen.

In a letter this week to its DFB members, SIPTU said there had been no consultation from the Minister or the NAS, and it would ballot for industrial action.

“Despite having assurances from the health minister that there would be no decisions made in the absence of the publication of the two outstanding Ambulance Service reviews, the chief executive Owen Keegan has decided to outsource an integral part of the service to the NAS,” the letter from Brendan O’Brien said.

Mr Keegan was not available for comment.

Dublin City Council said there would be a six-month transition period in which there would be consultation.

This view was echoed by Leo Varadkar in the letter.

“It is vital that full consultation with unions now takes place over the six month transition period, as set out under the Haddington Road Agreement, before any new measures come into play. I have made that very clear to all involved,” said the Minister.

But SIPTU has reiterated that consultation after the decision for change is made, and

while a transition to the new system is in train, is not acceptable.

“If consultation happens after the decision is made all you are doing is deciding how to implement the decision. That’s not consultation,” said Mr O’Brien.

The row centres on a decision by Dublin City Council, which has responsibility for DFB, to transfer the handling of ambulance calls and dispatch of emergency vehicles to the NAS run by the HSE.

The council argues that this move is based on recommendations of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) which criticised the current

system of DFB and the NAS sharing responsibility. HIQA argues that this has led to inefficiencies and poor coordination between the two bodies.

A representative for DCC said that Mr Keegan’s announcement was “made following full consultation with the HSE”.

cfeehan@herald.ie

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