Back wheels fall off one ambulance as 235 break down in nine months
A total of 235 ambulances broke down across the country within a nine-month period last year, including one incident where the wheels fell off a vehicle while it was taking a patient to hospital.
Figures show that the highest number of breakdowns took place in Dublin, followed by Galway.
Documents released to Fine Gael Senator Hildegarde Naughton under the Freedom of Information Act show 235 breakdowns were recorded by the National Ambulance Service between February 12 and November 11 of last year.
The vast majority, 123, were recorded in Leinster, followed by the western region, with 58 breakdowns, and 23 in the southern region. In Galway, 15 ambulances broke down during the period covered, with 13 in Limerick and 11 in Clare.
The figures include the case where the two back wheels fell off an ambulance while it was taking a patient from Letterkenny hospital in Co Donegal to University College Hospital in Galway.
The ambulance was carrying the patient along with a nurse, anaesthetist and two paramedics when the incident happened on August 26 last outside Sligo.
While the patient subsequently died, the incident is not thought to have impacted on their condition.
"The number of ambulance breakdowns is concerning and is a consequence of many years of underinvestment in the National Ambulance Service, which is responsible for saving countless lives every year," said Ms Naughton.
She welcomed the €18m that has since been invested in the ambulance fleet to "ensure such statistics are consigned to the past.
"I'm pleased the Minister for Health announced an investment of €18m this month for the purchase of 50 new ambulances and 35 refurbished ambulances under the HSE's capital programme.
"In total, 150 vehicles will have been added in 2015 and 2016, allowing the National Ambulance Service to replace older vehicles and expand services. Replacing older vehicles also reduces costs and improves reliability.
"This will address the historic under-investment that has seen emergency vehicles, apparently unfit for purpose, being used to respond to life-or-death situations," said Senator Naughton.
Last year, 53 ambulances were decommissioned and replaced by a total of 64 newly purchased vehicles. The addition of 85 ambulances in 2016 will see the fleet expand to 268 vehicles.