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Emergency ambulances broke down on 52 occasions last year


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Emergency ambulances owned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) have broken down 173 times since 2018, new figures have revealed.

Nearly one in five ambulances currently in service is five or six years old, despite HSE policy dictating that the vehicles should be replaced after five years.

More than 10pc of the national fleet also have over 300,000km on the clock. While the HSE imposes no limits in relation to odometer readings, garda vehicles are retired after 300,000km for safety reasons.

Records released under Freedom of Information show that 173 mechanical breakdowns involving emergency ambulances were recorded in the past four-and-a-half years, 35 of which occurred in Dublin.

The national fleet currently consists of 303 Mercedes Sprinters with odometer readings at the end of June ranging from 200km to 389,397km.

Some 11 of the vehicles were six years old, while 45 were registered in 2017, making them five years old in 2022.

A spokesman for the HSE said the National Ambulance Service (NAS) operates more than 700 vehicles, including intermediate care and rapid response transport. These collectively clock up more than 25 million kilometres a year.

“Robust vehicle maintenance procedures are in place, which include vehicle roadworthy inspections every eight weeks. These inspections are in addition to the routine inspections carried out after every 20,000km on the road,” he said.

“The NAS has a five-year vehicle replacement plan in place for emergency ambulances and a six-year replacement plan for intermediate care and rapid response vehicles.”

Last year, emergency ambulances broke down on 52 occasions, 16 of which occurred in Dublin. Breakdowns were also reported five times in Kerry, and on three occasions in Ennis, Co Clare.

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There were 30 breakdowns in 2020, five of which happened in Ennis, four in Dublin, and three in Limerick. During the previous year, 39 breakdowns were recorded – including six in Dublin, four in Kilkenny, and three in Clare.

In 2018, 33 mechanical breakdowns included seven in Dublin, six in Limerick, four in Cork and two in Naas, Co Kildare.

The causes of mechanical failure were not specified by the HSE. In the past, however, these have included “loss of power”, “electrical faults”, wheel changes, and simply that the ambulance “wouldn’t start”.

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