The Saolta Hospital Group spent over €2m on private ambulances last year, and is set to break the €3m mark this year, despite the establishment of its own hospital transport service for patients two years ago, claims Independent Roscommon/South Leitrim Deputy, Denis Naughten TD
The patient transport service uses Intermediate Care Vehicles (ICVs), manned by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), to transport patients between hospitals - like those within the Saolta Hospital Group.
“The reason for establishing this service was to assist the Saolta Hospital Group in transporting patients between hospitals such as Galway University Hospitals, Portiuncula, Mayo General, Sligo General and Letterkenny General.
“But despite this the hospitals have forked out €2.2m in 2014 and have already spent in excess of €1.25m in the first five months of 2015,” explained Deputy Naughten.
“This is on top of the money paid by health insurers for the transport of private patients between these hospitals.
“The use of the ICVs was to ensure that patients who are already in hospital can be transferred between hospitals without tying up emergency ambulances and paramedics, who would then be available to respond to 999/112 calls.
“However, this does not seem to be happening because instead of the cost of using private ambulances decreasing, it has instead increased following the introduction of the new service.
“Furthermore, many older people in nursing homes who require an ambulance to bring them to hospital appointments, see these ICVs cancelled at short notice as they are diverted to other duties.
“This has further knock on impacts for both older patients and the health service, as a whole
“What is even more frustrating is the fact the money used over the last two and a half years on private ambulances would have paid for an additional 28 ICVs - which would have a dramatic impact on the delivery of the service,” he concluded.