Dublin ambulance merger an ‘agenda’ of city manager, Alan Kelly says

Former minister for local government believes merger plan will ‘jeopardise lives’

Alan Kelly wrote to Owen Keegan last April and told him ‘I did not believe the economies the city management said existed’.

Alan Kelly wrote to Owen Keegan last April and told him ‘I did not believe the economies the city management said existed’.

 

Former minister Alan Kelly has claimed the plan to amalgamate the ambulance service of Dublin Fire Brigade with the national ambulance service is an “agenda” of Dublin City Council and the city manager.

He believed it would “jeopardise lives”.

The issue was raised in the Dáil on Wednesday as Siptu members of Dublin Fire Brigade prepare for 24 hour stoppages on Saturday March 18th and Monday March 27th to oppose plans to remove the fire brigade’s ambulance call and dispatch functions.

Mr Kelly, who had responsibility for local government, said he was the minister in charge when this issue was first being discussed.

He had written to the city manager Owen Keegan last April and told him “I did not believe the economies the city management said existed”.

Mr Kelly said “this is an agenda of the Dublin city management. It is wrong and it needs to be stopped.”

He claimed the report currently with the Department of Health - the final review of Dublin ambulance services - “is going to recommend exactly what was recommended to me a year ago. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. The economies do not exist.”

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart, who raised the issue during health question time, strongly opposed the merger. He called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to intervene in the dispute to ensure “that communities across Dublin, our capital city, are not left without fire-based emergency services for any period in the coming weeks”.

Mr Harris said he had not seen the review but the department secretary general had received it in the past few days.

His departmental officials and those of the Department of Local Government were currently discussing the issue.

Mr Harris said when “a proposed way forward is agreed between the respective departments I expect the report will be submitted to myself and to the Minister for Local Government”.

Hiqa report

The Minister said “I am fully aware of and greatly appreciate the excellent historical tradition of ambulance services provided to the citizens of Dublin by the Dublin Fire Brigade”.

He added however that they had to have regard to the findings in the 2014 report of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), which “highlighted patient safety issues arising from two ambulance services operating in the same domain”.

He said there was a need for the fire brigade and the national ambulance service to work closely together to optimise and maximise all available emergency resources.

He said “we have to find the mechanism to best address the concerns of Hiqa to make sure we have the safest service possible”.

Mr Lahart noted the Minister did not say if he would intervene in the dispute. Mr Lahart said a consultative forum recommended an efficient technological system be put in place. “To transfer the 100,000 calls handled annually by the fire brigade to another call centre would jeopardise public safety.”

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said “it’s a case of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. The service is working well.”

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey said all local authorities voted for the ambulance service to be retained within the Dublin Fire Brigade.

Mr Harris said he did not doubt the conviction of Siptu members but he appealed to them not to proceed with strike action which he said would clearly not be in the interests of any patient in the capital.

He added that there would be a need for additional ambulance capacity and that should not get lost in the debate. How this would be funded, since it was currently with Dublin city council, had to be addressed through this process.