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Thursday 8 December 2016

Why Dublin Fire Brigade and not the HSE must be the city's first responders - new report

Roberto Rea, from Artane, with his mother June White and firemen Donal Maguire, Donal Brennan, Robert Hedderman, and Kevin Rowe of Dublin Fire Brigade, who saved Roberto's life Photo: Caroline Quinn
Roberto Rea, from Artane, with his mother June White and firemen Donal Maguire, Donal Brennan, Robert Hedderman, and Kevin Rowe of Dublin Fire Brigade, who saved Roberto's life Photo: Caroline Quinn

A new report that recommends that Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) continues taking 999 calls at their own call centre has been broadly welcomed.

A special committee was formed last year after a firefighters' backlash to HSE proposals to centralise all ambulance calls in the Tallaght base of the National Ambulance Service (NAS).

DFB members threatened strike action if the move went ahead.

However, a new report has considered submissions from Dublin City Council, the HSE and trade unions and has recommended that both services retain their call centre functions.

A meeting will take place next week to examine a technological solution to ensure that both computer systems "talk to each other" and to make sure that the nearest ambulance is dispatched to a patient.

A new funding model has also been mooted for the DFB ambulance services.

At the moment, the HSE pays Dublin City Council €9.3m per year for 12 ambulances and staff which cover the central Dublin area.

The HSE then covers Tallaght and Co Dublin.

Model

The expert panel has suggested a new model, which would see the Department of the Environment fund the ambulance service of the fire brigade and the HSE fund the NAS.

The report stated that the "historical funding arrangements have not been effective" and that the new funding model would "encourage more effective service delivery and greater efficiency for the Exchequer".

In order to oversee the new model, a new 'pre-hospital emergency services board' jointly chaired by the accounting officers from both government departments and with members from the HSE, DCC, NAS and DFB should be set up, according to the report.

The report also recommends that both services stay in control of their own clinical governance, which sets out how patient care is delivered.

Improved communication on a number of levels between the two agencies was recommended as a way to address concerns about poor co-operation raised in a Hiqa report into the service.

It also calls for an increase in resources, which will address issues around the delay in responding to cases.

Siptu's Brendan O'Brien said that both the union and Imact have "unreservedly accepted" the findings of the panel.

"The trade unions and management have accepted the findings of the report," he said.

"It addresses the concerns that we had and also maintains the service on behalf of the public."

Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics respond to hundreds of calls across the city every year.

In 2014, four Kilbarrack-based paramedics saved the life of then 17-year-old Roberto Rea when his heart stopped for 15 minutes.

The skilled paramedics were able to resuscitate the teen, which they put down to their training and the quick response time of their crew.

Sinn Fein councillor Noeleen Reilly said that focus must now shift to staff and resources of the fire services in the city.

"Dublin Fire Brigade have excellent response times as it is and anything that can be done to improve that is welcome," she said.

"The report is good in that it recognises the fire brigade's ambulance service as its own entity but it is short on detail."

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