Sunday 17 December 2017

Mayor will urge Keegan to reject ambulance plan

Christy Burke
Christy Burke

Lord Mayor Christy Burke will ask Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan to reject the advice of a health watchdog that has advised changes in the capital's ambulance service.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has recommended that the call-taking and dispatch responsibilities of the emergency services be taken from Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) and transferred to the HSE's National Ambulance Service (NAS).

Last week Mr Keegan was criticised when he announced the change would take place.


Dublin Fire Brigade representatives said they had been promised consultation on the matter before a final decision would be made and threatened industrial action.

A forum to discuss the issue was established last week after a meeting between workers' representatives and Dublin City Council.

It was agreed that the control centre reconfiguration project recommended by the HIQA will be discussed by the forum.

But Mr Burke has told the Herald he will ask Mr Keegan to disregard the advice of HIQA and leave the call and dispatch functions with the fire brigade.

"I believe that if Dublin Fire Brigade were given extra vehicles and resources, any criticisms that HIQA had in relation to response times would be addressed," he said.

"I don't believe that handing an excellently-run system to the HSE is the answer. You cannot criticise a group operating a system if it is the system they are operating that is at fault and not the group.

"And part of the problems being experienced by Dublin Fire Brigade are actually being created by the HSE, which doesn't help.

"Ambulance personnel are often left waiting at hospitals to get stretchers and trolleys back because of delays within the hospitals' A&E departments and they can't get back into service as a result."

The Dublin Operations Centre of the NAS was recently granted internationally-recognised accreditation.

The announcement was made at a ceremony attended by Health Minister Leo Varadkar that heard that the NAS handles 300,000 ambulance calls a year with a fleet of 500 vehicles serving a population of 4.6m people.


But Impact national secretary Peter Nolan, whose union represents 200 DFB staff, said the Dublin ambulance service operates on less than 10pc of the national service budget yet responds to 40pc of ambulance calls.

"It operates to the highest standards and has a proven track record of excellence. The city cannot afford to have that excellence undermined," he told the Herald.

Dublin Fire Brigade said it handled 127,000 mobilisations last year, 46,000 of which were fire and rescue emergencies and 81,000 being ambulance cases.


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