HSE bus ended despite offer of 50% cut


THE OPERATOR of a €100,000- a-year bus service taking sick patients to Dublin hospitals from Donegal offered the Health Service Executive a 50 per cent cut in a bid to save the service before the last run was made yesterday.

The offer was emailed on Wednesday but coach operator Francis Marley said he had not even received an acknowledgment when the 35-year-service was ended last night.

Up to 50 patients a week, including sick babies, had been ferried from remote areas of Donegal to Dublin hospitals by Marley Coaches, based in Cloghan near Ballybofey. The HSE said the funded service was ended because there had been an increase in the number of public service buses on the Donegal to Dublin route, with shorter journey times.

Patients who have regularly used the bus said public services did not drop them at hospital front doors and they would incur up to €100 in daily extra costs using taxis from Busáras and staying overnight in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Mr Marley said: “We put a proposal to the HSE on Wednesday with a plan to reduce the charge to the HSE by up to 50 per cent.

“We reduced our own costs and the patients volunteered to pay more than the €12.50 contribution they make to each return journey.

“When we did our sums we figured we could still provide the same service five days a week, but the HSE hasn’t even responded.”

Six patients travelled yesterday on the last funded bus. Mr Marley said: “It doesn’t appear to have sunk in to the patients that the service is now ended. They still think something is going to be worked out.”

Kidney-lung double transplant patient Brendan McLaughlin (45), from Stranorlar, who has used the service for 30 years, said: “I’m annoyed about it and tired and disappointed. It seems that they’re going after the poorest of the poor. It’s the poor and the sick that this Government seem to be hitting on.”

Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill questioned the Government’s decision to pump €36 million into CIÉ in the same week that it shut down the bus service from Donegal.

“This raises very serious questions about the Government’s priorities,” Mr Ó Domhnaill said. “There will no longer be a specialised HSE bus to take Donegal patients to Dublin hospitals for treatment because the Government wants to cut costs.

“Meanwhile, they are pumping millions into CIÉ that they managed to get from elsewhere in the transport budget. This entire announcement reveals skewed priorities, poor planning and a lack of understanding of the most basic economics.”