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HSE urged to reveal if staff claim mileage

DUBLIN'S emergency fire and ambulance workers have called on the HSE to reveal if their staff claim mileage for using its rapid response vehicles.

And the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has confirmed it is to conduct a six-month review of the country's ambulance service.

The review was confirmed by HIQA deputy director Mary Dunnion, who said that overseas ambulance executives will be consulted.

It is not directly related to the revelations in an RTE Prime Time programme about delays in ambulances arriving at critical call-outs and some parts of the country being effectively left without ambulance cover during busy periods.

The programme also claimed that expensive National Ambulance Service (NAS) resources are under-utilised, with some rapid response vehicles used more like company cars.

SIRENS

The NAS has hit back at the allegations, insisting it was offering "a world-class service".

However, the investigation revealed that the number of emergency ambulances in Ireland has been reduced from 320 in 2008 to 265 last year.

The programme also showed that HSE supervisors are using the specially kitted-out SUVs and cars for personal transport.

The vehicles with sirens and lights are branded as ambulances and designed to be used to administer emergency treatment but not to carry patients.

While the HSE told RTE the vehicles can be pressed into action if needed, the Prime Time programme found many are being used like company cars.

"I want to know if staff using these vehicles are claiming mileage," said John Kidd, chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association.

"It's totally wrong that these vehicles which cost millions to the taxpayer are being used in this way while the ambulance fleet is breaking down."

REVENUE

The HSE could not answer the question on whether mileage was being claimed for the use of rapid response vehicles, but said during the period January to March 2014 the vehicles were used in 629 emergency call-outs, 252 of which were outside working hours.

Mr Kidd also said the national ambulance service should be reported to the Revenue to see if benefit-in-kind should be paid on the rapid response vehicles if HSE staff are using them as personal transport.

The HSE is trying to take over Dublin Fire Brigade's provision of the ambulance service in the capital in its efforts to form a national ambulance service for the whole country.

But Mr Kidd said with Dublin Fire Brigade responding to 40pc of the national ambulance calls, but only receiving 8pc of the national budget, he finds it hard to understand how the HSE would save money in the move without depleting services.

SEE PAGE 14


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