Paramedics tell Reilly to get ambulances off the road after series of fires
In a letter to the chief ambulance officer at the HSE, copied to Dr Reilly, SIPTU said it was writing on foot of a serious incident last week. It said an ambulance on patient transport duty from Cavan General Hospital to Beaumont was "inexplicably destroyed by fire".
Although there were no injuries, it warned Chief Ambulance Officer Martin Dunne that the model of ambulance may be a "fire hazard".
"It is fact that a number of ambulance vehicles have been lost over the past three years in similar circumstances without explanation," said Health Division head Paul Bell in the letter.
Mr Dunne was asked to clarify if the specific model of ambulance was prone to fire in other countries, and if the service is still purchasing vehicles from this manufacturer.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Bell said the union will ask for the vehicles to be stood down until it is assured that his members do not face an unnecessary risk, if it is not happy with the response.
The HSE confirmed the National Ambulance Service has commissioned an independent technical examination of the ambulance to find the cause of the blaze.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further until the technical examination report is received," a HSE spokeswoman said.
And the HSE confirmed 4 vehicles out of a total fleet of 266 were damaged by fire between 2007 and early 2009.
"No other vehicles were damaged by fire until the incident in June of this year," she said.
"The NAS worked with Mercedes to identify the cause of the fires between 2007 and 2009. Following a review of all vehicles and consultation with Mercedes, a remedial programme of engine modification was implemented for all similar type vehicles/engines," the HSE stated.
Timeline of blaze alerts
- Last week – A patient and crew escaped injury on the M3 when a Mercedes Sprinter 515 travelling from Cavan General Hospital to Beaumont burst into flames. The crew managed to get out of the vehicle after noticing smoke coming from the bonnet.
- 2009 – An ambulance caught fire near Drogheda on the way back from a callout in Dundalk. There was no patient on board.
- 2009 – Two paramedics were in the K-Club car park when ambulance went on fire.
- 2008 – An ambulance went on fire in Portlaoise during a patient transfer.