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Ambulance Safety Concerns raised – Gerry Adams TD

23 September, 2015 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has this morning raised serious concerns with the Taoiseach about the safety of the ambulance fleet in Louth and across the state during Leaders Questions.

The Sinn Féin leader expressed his disappointment with the Taoiseach’s response in the Dáil today.

Gerry Adams said:

“On August 26th the two back wheels of an ambulance bringing a chronically ill patient on a life support machine from Letterkenny fell off outside Sligo. As well as the patient, there was a nurse and doctor and two paramedics in the vehicle.

“Only the skill of the driver prevented this incident from becoming a much more serious accident with lives lost. Subsequently the patient died, although it is not believed that the accident played a part in this. However, there was a delay of at least 30 minutes while a new ambulance as sent for.

“The vehicle which lost its wheels is 8 years old and is a Mercedes Sprinter 515 model. Like all ambulances the vehicle has done an amazing number of kilometres. In this case it has travelled 411,786 kms. That’s over 50,000 kilometres a year.

“According to an Inspection Report by an independent consulting engineer and assessor that I received into the accident there is a serious design flaw with this model of ambulance. The assessor reports a serious design flaw with the wheel nuts coming loose and wheel studs shearing and wheels coming off.

“The engineer reports that the “vehicle design has one major negative characteristic in the wheel stud/nut design”.

“In his opinion he states that; “This weakness in design can result in a wheel stud failure if a sudden stress is transmitted to the vehicle via the wheel. From my experience I would say the wheel studs on the Mercedes 515 Sprinter are too small.”

“The assessor further states that; “what is of serious concern and which can have serious implications for crew and patient safety and the safety of other road users is despite preventative measures or systems being put in place is the reoccurrence: of wheel nuts coming loose. Wheel studs/nuts shearing and wheels coming off.”

“The implications of this for patients and paramedic and other road users is obvious and I understand that some staff in the Sligo area are refusing from today to drive the Mercedes ambulance.

“A similar incident occurred in March 2014 in county Louth when a wheel came off an ambulance as it returned to Dundalk from Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda. The week before there was a similar incident in the mid-west and earlier that year a Dublin fire brigades ambulance also lost a wheel.

“I don’t know whether the ambulances involved were the same model as that which lost its wheels last month on the way from Donegal to Galway but clearly this is a question that needs to be answered.

“The independent report has now been with the HSE for three weeks. The government needs to ensure that urgent action is taken to thoroughly investigate this matter and to ensure safety measures for the public, patients and medical crews are up to standard.”

In conclusion the Louth TD said:

“Sinn Féin has continually made the case that the government has presided over the erosion of our public services. This incident is another example of the lack of proper investment. It is most crucially felt in rural Ireland.

That a patient has to be transported from Donegal to Galway in an ambulance with 411,000 kilometres on the clock illustrates the deficiencies in the government’s health policy.”

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