Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sarah Slater

The debt owed by the HSE to Dublin City Council (DCC) for use of the Fire Brigade ambulance service has spiralled to €116.8m.

The figures released by the Council at a recent monthly meeting show that the annual funding deficit has increased over a nine-year period from €9.41 million in 2014 to €16.55m this year so far.

Based on the average of these two figures, the council executive says that the arrears due over that nine-year period are estimated at €116.8m.

Dublin Fire Brigade runs an emergency ambulance service for when the National Ambulance Service is not available. They also send out fire tenders when no ambulance is available which figures show occurred 3,066 times last year.

The HSE awards the council €9.19 million a year to run the service, said Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan.

However, costs have risen steadily for providing the service and by the end of this year, the cost of the DFB emergency ambulance service is expected to reach just less than €26 million.

The DCC also estimates that it will lose €16.55 million running the service.

Mr Keegan said: “Anybody else would have withdrawn the service long before now. But there’s a huge commitment among the staff, and I think it’s important that we will support them. And we’ve done that and the HSE have exploited that to the hilt,” he said.

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin and Independent councillor Christy Burke said the council should consider taking legal action against the HSE if there is “no plan to repay the arrears by the end of the year. It’s totally unacceptable that this situation is allowed to continue.

“I’ve warned about this for years when €9m was owed now the situation is just out of control. So many Council services and social projects are suffering because of this spiralling debt which is totally unacceptable.”

At the meeting Mr Keegan pointed out that he had received a commitment from Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien that he would resolve the issue this year.

The HSE were contacted for comment but did not respond.

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