A third of ageing ambulance fleet taken off roads
ONE third of Dublin city's emergency ambulances were off the road on Wednesday night because of mechanical faults, the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) has revealed.
The fleet, which was under pressure due to emergency calls, is operated by Dublin Fire Brigade and is responsible for call-outs in the city.
John Kidd, the organisation's chairman, said the service has 12 emergency front-line ambulances along with five reserve vehicles - bringing the total fleet to 17.
However, he said on Wednesday night all of these reserve vehicles were already in service, in order to stand in for ambulances that were off the road with mechanical problems.
It meant that 11 ambulances were available for emergency care, one short of the level needed. And no reserve cover could have been accessed in the event of an accident.
He said some ambulances were caught up at the Mater Hospital in Dublin for a time because it had to go "off call" due to overcrowding in its emergency department.
Independent Roscommon TD Denis Naughten has obtained figures showing as many as 48 HSE emergency ambulances had passed the 400,000km mark.
Mr Kidd said: "The chaotic situation faced by crews confirms the concerns highlighted earlier this week by Deputy Denis Naughten on the poor condition of the national HSE ambulance fleet."
"Almost one-fifth of the HSE ambulances have over 400,000km on the clock. The figures also showed that another 71 HSE emergency ambulances had clocked up more than 300,000km.
"In Dublin, 14 (82pc) of ambulances have over 300,000km and seven have over 400,000km on the clock."
Mr Kidd said the fleet was regularly "cannibalised" for spare parts to keep ambulances on the road. "It is not the way to provide vital emergency services to a population of 1.2 million citizens and the dangers to both crews and patients are obvious. Because of the age and high mileage on much of the ambulance fleet the service is operating on a knife edge all of the time."
Dublin City Council's newest front-line ambulances were registered in 2011 and the oldest in 2006.
The oldest reserve ambulances were registered in 2005. A review of the ambulance service is under way.