Ambulance mileage raises fears of failure on the road
Almost one-fifth of ambulances have over 400,000km on the clock, raising fears of failure on the road, it emerged yesterday.
Figures show as many as 48 emergency ambulances operated by the Health Service Executive (HSE) have passed this mileage mark, despite their critical role in saving the lives of seriously ill patients.
Independent Roscommon TD Denis Naughten, who obtained the figures in a parliamentary reply, said: "Clearly, with close to a fifth of all emergency ambulances having mileage in excess of 400,000km it dramatically increases the chances of breakdown."
The figures also showed that another 71 emergency ambulances had clocked up more than 300,000km.
The news comes against a backdrop of ongoing reports of emergency ambulances encountering delays.
Mr Naughten said: "This is just not good enough, particularly due to the fact that vast swathes of the country are now very reliant on such services following the closure of smaller emergency departments.
"When these ambulances break down, not only do they put the lives of the patients that they are transporting at risk but it also means that another ambulance has to be taken out of an already overstretched system to take that patient to hospital.
"In many parts of the country it is not unusual for patients to have to wait for up to an hour for an ambulance, due to the limited resources that are available.
"Adding into the mix, ambulances with mileage in excess of the warranty of the vehicle is just not good enough and is placing patients at an unacceptable risk."
Mr Naughten added: "The gardai automatically take their vehicles off the road after 300,000km, yet there are 48 emergency ambulances on Irish roads, many of which are substandard, with more than 400,000km on the odometer. "
In response to his queries, Oliver Reilly, operations performance manager at the National Ambulance Service, said it is important to note that the odometer reading does not reflect an engine replacement.
It also does not indicate the replacement of other significant component parts, he added.
Mr Reilly said that this year, €7.5m has been allocated for vehicle and equipment replacement.
It is planned to purchase 35 emergency ambulances and two neo-natal ambulances at a cost of €3.5m.
Already, 15 of these ambulances have entered into service around the country, he added.
John Kidd of the Irish Fire and Emergency Association said frontline staff and the seriously ill patients they care for are being put at risk.
"They should streamline management in the service and divert funding to the fleet," he added.