€19m spent on private ambulances in four years while National Ambulance Services remain under-resourced - Louise O’Reilly TD
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD today raised an FOI response with the Minister for Health during priority questions, which showed that €19million was spent on private ambulance services in the years 2012-2015 inclusive, at a time when the National Ambulance Service were fighting to get the recommendations of the Capacity Review on issues of resources, staffing and equipment, implemented.
Deputy O’Reilly said:
“Last month SIPTU representatives met with the Minister to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) Capacity Review.
“These front line representatives spoke passionately of their desire for a fully resourced, fully equipped service. Indeed they had to threaten all out strike only a number of weeks ago just so that they could secure commitments to get the resources identified in the capacity review that would enhance the service. They did this to ensure quality of care and patient safety.
“On one hand we have a situation where ambulance personnel are forced to beg for commitments for future investment for a vital public service and on the other, in four years alone, €19million was spent on private ambulance services.
“In four years, seven private companies received €19million in public money for a service that the public National Ambulance Service want to provide but aren’t sufficiently resourced to. This is unacceptable.
“In 2015 alone, the year the Capacity Review was finalised, €6.3million was spent on private providers. That is 33% of the expenditure over the four years.
“What is worrying is that we have certain outlier hospitals, where there is a significant use of private ambulances. Why? Has there been any investigation into why there is such a heavy reliance nationally on private ambulances? Has there been any investigation into why there is such a heavy reliance in certain hospitals and regions particularly, on private ambulances?
“If there is a poverty or famine of resources in one area, shown by these figures, then should we not invest in the public services there? And if there are issues with the culture that have exasperated the issue, should we not move to address that?
“This goes back to the heart of the issues that I have been raising with the Minister repeatedly - privatisation. We are relying on private companies to provide services at the expense of our public services. Rather than laying foundations for a sturdy public health service, the blocks are being dismantled.”