Sligo/Leitrim Sinn FÉin Deputy, Martin Kenny, told www.leitrimobserver.ie the HSE has spent over €25m on private ambulances over the past five years, a figure, he says, should have been spent purchasing and staffing new ambulances for each HSE region.
According to figures released by the HSE to Sinn Féin, Sligo General Hospital spent €636,744 in 2015, €528,565 in 2014, €340,687 in 2013, and €150,851 in 2012 on private ambulances.
"That's a four year total of €1,656,847," noted the Sligo/Leitrim TD.
"Similarly Letterkenny General Hospital spent €835,967 on private ambulances in 2015, €713,995 in 2014, €280,783 in 2013, and €67,464 in 2012. That's a total of €1,898,209 in four years.
"The breakdown of what each hospital spends on private ambulances from 2012-2015 and a total figure nationally for 2016 was received by Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly in reply to parliamentary questions. Now I have raised the issue of ambulance cover deficiencies in this region on several occasions in the last year and this information shows that the necessary financial investment is actually being used to hire private operators. The money should be spent purchasing and staffing new ambulances rather than hiring out essential services to private companies to do the job of the state, and to make a profit while doing so.
“Given that the cost of purchasing a fully equipped emergency ambulance is €222,000 (according to a PQ response from the HSE), hiring private ambulances is not fiscally prudent or appropriate in the case of people’s lives being at stake. A dependency on this method of providing ambulance services is hugely irresponsible by the State. Privatisation in its various guises has been spreading across our health service for some time now. The outsourcing of ambulance services to private companies by our health services is further evidence of this.”
Deputy Kenny said the HSE should focus on purchasing and staffing new ambulances rather than spending public funds on private ambulance services.
“Unless the HSE invests in new ambulances the ambulance asset stock will continue to fall and they will become even more reliant on private providers. This is evidenced in the fact that there was nearly a €2m jump in expenditure on private ambulances between 2014 and 2016 (€1,967,947) and the increasing spend shows no sign of abating. The state needs to ensure that we have a high quality publically owned stock of ambulances instead of putting money into the pockets of private companies which does not constitute fiscal prudence or a benefit to the taxpayer," he concluded.