BY HARRY WALSH
LETTERKENNY General hospital spent over quarter of a million euro on private ambulances last year, primarily for non-emergency transfers of patients to external hospitals in Dublin and Galway.
This comes less than a year after the HSE’s National Ambulance Service
(NAS) introduced eight new Intermediate Care Ambulances in the North
West as part of its commitment to develop and improve response times
to life threatening emergency calls in the region.
The introduction of the Intermediate Care Ambulance service was seen
as a central part of the improvement of response times for the
ambulance service in the north west region.
The eight new Intermediate Care Ambulances, costing approximately
€200,000 each, were initially tasked with taking over roles that were
previously carried out by the Emergency Ambulances in the area.
These roles include inter-hospital transfers and transporting patients
from acute hospitals such as Letterkenny Hospital and Sligo Regional
Hospital to set-down facilities, particularly nursing homes.
Mr Padraig O’Riordan, National Ambulance Service, said the
introduction has been a success in that pre-planned bookings do not
impinge on front line ambulances.
“The Intermediate Care Service was introduced for two reasons – to
provide dedicated transport for non-emergency routine transfers
between hospitals and reduce demand on front line ambulance to enable
them to be available to respond to 999 calls.
“From both these points of view, the introduction has been a success
in that pre-planned bookings do not impinge on front line ambulances.
“While this introduction has been a success, there has been a
corresponding increase in the usage of private ambulances.
“Last year (2013) LGH supplemented the ICV service with private
providers, primarily for non-emergency transfers of patients to
external hospitals in Dublin and Galway for regional and tertiary
services. Letterkenny General Hospital spent €280k on private
ambulances in 2013.
“Costs to Sligo Regional Hospital incurred for the provision of
private ambulance providers for non emergency runs either to national/
regional centres or for patient transportation to Community Hospitals
and Nursing Homes since the introduction of the Intermediate Care
Vehicle Service are £308k,” Mr O’Riordan said.
The issue had been raised at the most recent Regional Health Forum by
Cllr Felim Gurn, Independent County Councillor for Manorhamilton.
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