Ambulance ‘takeover’ not on HSE agenda

HSE service ‘outclasses’ one provided by Dublin Fire Brigade, says O’Brien

Currently the HSE provides emergency ambulance services outside Dublin while Dublin Fire Brigade provides most of the emergency cover in the city. Photograph: Alan Betson

Currently the HSE provides emergency ambulance services outside Dublin while Dublin Fire Brigade provides most of the emergency cover in the city. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 01:00

The Health Service Executive has no agenda to take over the ambulance service in Dublin from the fire brigade, HSE director Tony O’Brien said yesterday.

However, Mr O’Brien told the Oireachtas Health Committee the HSE’s National Ambulance Service (NAS) “outclasses” the ambulance service provided by Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) in the city “in terms of scope and scale in almost every respect”.

He said he was concerned by “a notion” that the HSE had an agenda to take control of the ambulance service away from DFB.

Currently the HSE provides emergency ambulance services outside Dublin while DFB provides most of the emergency cover in Dublin.

Mr O’Brien said: “I am concerned by the notion that has been put about that there is some kind of an agenda for a HSE takeover . . .

“There is no power grab going on. What we do want to ensure is that one of the legacies is an appropriately structured national ambulance service, not a HSE ambulance service but a national ambulance service.”

‘Important contributor’
He said, however, the NAS “outclasses” the ambulance service provided by the fire brigade. He said DFB ambulances were an “important contributor” to pre-hospital emergency care in Dublin.

“Dublin Fire Brigade . . . operates 11 emergency ambulances in Dublin. The National Ambulance Service operates 28 emergency ambulances in Dublin,” he added.

He said the DFB ambulance service “is by no means capable of being described as Dublin’s ambulance service. The National Ambulance Service outclasses it in terms of scope and scale in almost every respect”.

He said the most recent monthly data indicated NAS ambulances responded to the most serious life-threatening calls within 18 minutes and 59 seconds in 75.27 per cent of cases and that the HSE’s target was that they should meet this response in 70 per cent of cases, while the DFB statistics, he said, indicated a response rate of 58.4 per cent.

“So as I say . . . the Dublin Fire Brigade is an important contributor but it is by no means the exemplar that some people suggest it is.”

Response time
Brendan O’Brien, Siptu’s industrial organiser for Dublin Fire Brigade, last night strongly contested some of the figures put forward by the HSE director.

“Mr O’Brien said DFB responses to life-threatening ‘Echo’ calls within recommended response time were running at 58 per cent. The most recent 2013 figures for Echo calls show DFB had a response for Echo calls within eight minutes in 72.9 per cent of cases.

“So far this year DFB is providing a response to Echo calls within eight minutes in 83 per cent of cases.”

He said DFB had 12 ambulances rather than the 11 stated by Mr O’Brien and pointed out DFB also had 22 fire trucks which responded to 60 per cent of Echo calls. He also questioned the assertion by Mr O’Brien that the HSE had 28 emergency ambulances in Dublin.

“The HSE’s assertion that DFB’s fire-based ambulance service is ‘not an exemplar service’, is ludicrous and ignores the fact that cities across North America and Europe have modelled their own services on the DFB model,” said Mr O’Brien.