'Vital' Civil Defence medical support for local festivals at risk
Application for licence delayed as Department of Defence advised of liabilities involved
If local Civil Defence units were not providing the service, festival organisers would have to get medical services from private contractors, which could cost up to €4,000 for a 10-hour day. Photograph: iStock
Legal advice to the Department of Defence that it was taking on liabilities associated with the operations of the Civil Defence, without having full visibility as to what the largely volunteer-run organisation was doing, has created a potential problem for the organisers of sports and charity events and community festivals around the State.
In order to continue providing essential medical support services to the events, the Civil Defence has to have a licence from a body called the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC).
The current licence runs out at the end of July and the organisation has yet to submit its application for a licence renewal, a spokesman for the PHECC has confirmed.
The council is an independent statutory agency with responsibility for standards, education and training in pre-hospital emergency care.
“I can confirm that the Civil Defence wrote and requested an extension to their current recognition as a PHECC-licensed CPG [Clinical Practice Guidelines] provider, which was granted by the council,” the spokesman said. “That extension expires at the end of July 2019.”
To date, PHECC has not yet received a completed application from the Civil Defence, “but this is something we would encourage and look forward to receiving. However, this is a matter for the Civil Defence.”
According to a source, the delay is the result of legal advice given to the department which focused on the fact that while the department gave assurances to PHECC as part of the licence application process, the Civil Defence does not involve department employees and reports to local authorities around the State.
“The department can’t continue providing the assurances when it doesn’t have full visibility,” the source said. “The nub of the issue is structural.”
A meeting with representatives of the County and City Management Association is to take place next week and the department is hopeful that the matter can be resolved.
“Officials have also been engaging with representatives from the local authorities, who are the employers of the Civil Defence officers and responsible for day-to-day Civil Defence operations,” a spokeswoman for the department said.
“All parties are continuing to work together to resolve this issue so that there will be no diminution of services provided by Civil Defence volunteers.”
The Civil Defence provides vital support to not-for-profit community festivals, according to Colm Croffy, executive director of the Association of Irish Festivals and Events.
For events with more than 1,000 attendees, services such as emergency triage cover need to be in place in order for the event to comply with its insurance cover.
If local Civil Defence units were not providing the service, festival organisers would have to get the medical services from private contractors. Hiring a medical device vehicle and crew for a 10-hour day could cost up to €4,000.
Already insurance premiums were running at up to €6,000, depending on the size of the festival, Mr Croffy said. The additional costs that would have to be met would cause many festival committees to decide “that’s it, I’m off”, he said.