Council rejects HSE ambulance plan for Dublin

Head of ambulance service to be called before city council to explain ‘intentions’

The director of the HSE's National Ambulance Service, Martin Dunne, is to be called before Dublin city councillors to answer questions about his "intentions towards" Dublin Fire Brigade's (DFB) ambulance service.

The decision to invite Mr Dunne was taken at a meeting of the environment committee yesterday amid growing controversy about a HSE plan, drawn up last year, to take control of the Dublin ambulance service from DFB by the end of next year.

The plan, revealed in The Irish Time s this week, was drawn up in advance of a HSE-Dublin City Council review of the capital's ambulance service which was announced last month.

The Dublin ambulance service was discussed simultaneously at two council committee meetings yesterday.


At a finance committee a motion rejecting “any attempt by the HSE to take control of Dublin’s ambulance service” was passed. Moving the motion, Independent councillor Nial Ring said the Dub lin Fire Bridgade model was “working so why would we change it?”

People Before Profit councillor Brid Smith said her support for the motion was "no reflection whatsoever on the HSE paramedics delivering the service. This isn't about them. It's about the incompetence of HSE management."

Major issue is funding

Cllr Dermot Lacey of Labour s upported the motion and said: "There should be a single integrated service in Dublin and I would welcome the Minister for Health, James Reilly, and the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, to intervene."

As the motion was being debated, across the hall at the environment committee Dublin's chief fire officer Pat Fleming was giving a presentation, where he said the "major issue for the brigade is funding".

The fire brigade has provided the ambulance service in Dublin since 1898, on behalf of the city council, while the HSE provides the service outside Dublin. The council agrees a figure annually with the HSE . This year, said Mr Fleming, DFB would get €9.18 million.

He said the fire brigade's 12 ambulances were working at "full capacity" and even with the back-up of 22 fire-tenders which often responded to 999 emergency ambulance call-outs, his brigade was not able to meet Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) targets "due to factors outside our control".

Constituents concerned

“It has been impossible to reach an agreement on a sustainable funding model with the HSE over the years,” said Mr Fleming. He hoped the HSE-DCC review now under way would be an opportunity to “bring this out into the open. In DFB we do not have enough resources to satisfy Hiqa standards and that is a major issue .”

Cllr Deirdre Heney (Fianna F áil) said she had been inundated with calls from constituents since Tuesday "really concerned that this review is a fait accompli" and that it would lead to the ambulance service being removed from Dublin Fire Brigade.

Cllr Naoise Ó Muir í of Fine Gael said there had been "ongoing issues with the HSE over many years" in relation to the ambulance service cost.

“The leaked year-old HSE report appears to have been assembled behind closed doors and without public consultation or stakeholder engagement. I think the way to get all this out into the open is to invite the director of the National Ambulance Service and ask him what he’s up to, what are his intentions towards the Dublin ambulance service.”

The members agreed to ask Mr Dunne to appear before them on Thursday April 3rd .

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times