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Minister for Health clearly signals privatisation of healthcare to continue – O’Reilly

19 October, 2016 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Responding to a question from Sinn Fein's Health spokesperson, Louise O'Reilly TD, regarding the escalating spend on private ambulance services, Minister Simon Harris was clear that he has no plans to phase out the privatisation of the ambulance service.  Far from standing up for the public service, Minister Harris was very clear that he sees a role for the private sector on an ongoing basis.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“Yesterday, I asked the Minister if he believed that we are getting good value for money by spending €19 million on private ambulance services, €6.3 million of which was spent in 2015.

“We cannot improve the public health service by investing heavily in private companies. It is very disappointing that the Minister says that we can. He also said the intention was to use more of these services, with €6.3 million in 2015 going to private providers outside our public health system to provide services national ambulance service personnel and Dublin fire brigade want to provide. These providers can give value for the money that is spent. The €6.3 million spent on private ambulance providers in 2015 shows that the amount going to private companies is going up, when it should be going down. 

“In the Dáil yesterday, the Minister said that ‘there is a need to avail of private ambulance services to secure additional capacity for such patient transfers where required’ and that ‘for non-urgent cases, such as transferring a patient from an acute setting to a residential setting, we will look at the use of private operators’.

“What is acutely disappointing from this statement is that rather than looking at ways to enhance and increase the role of the National Ambulance Service, the Government and HSE are content to normalise the use of private ambulance services. There is no long-term plan to even phase out the use of these providers by increasing the capacity for non-emergency uses of the national ambulance service. Where demand exceeds supply in certain circumstances and in certain areas, the HSE need to look at how to enhance public capacity and divert funding accordingly. 

“The Minister must prioritise the implementation of the capacity review and then examine how the national ambulance service can extend its role and capacity to provide other non-emergency services. The Minister said that ‘Using private ambulances for non-urgent cases has a role to play’ but this is only true until such time as he, and the HSE, provide the National Ambulance Services with the resources and capacity to enhance its role. There has been a serious failure to do this and this must happen.” 

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