Dublin Fire Brigade representatives have warned that the threat of industrial action has increased following the news that the HSE is to take over the running of its ambulance service.
Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan announced the HSE's National Ambulance Service (NAS) will now be responsible for all emergency calls in the Dublin region.
The NAS, which is based in Tallaght, currently shares callouts with Dublin Fire Brigade in Tara Street.
The system was criticised as having "inefficiencies" and "poor coordination" by a HIQA report published last December.
The report noted that Dublin Fire Brigade had a delayed response for 50% of emergency calls and asked the NAS for assistance in one third of all calls.
But city councillors at tonight's monthly meeting were critical of the HSE's track record.
Lord Mayor Christy Burke said the HSE had made a "dog's dinner of the ambulance service".
Dublin firefighters are already threatening industrial action over proposals to cut crewing levels by up to 33%.
SIPTU representative Brendan O'Brien said the threat of this action has now increased with news of the HSE ambulance takeover.
He said that firefighters are trained to work interchangeably in ambulance or fire tender duties.
"Anything that interferes with that interferes with our service to the public", he said.
Varadkar says ‘full consultation’ to take place over ambulance services
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he is a “huge supporter” of the Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance service and said they provide an “excellent service”.
“However, there is room for improvement and Dubliners deserve the best from their ambulance service,” he said.
Dublin Fire Brigade have warned they may take industrial action following the news that the HSE is to take over the running of its ambulance service.
Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan announced the HSE’s National Ambulance Service (NAS) will now be responsible for all emergency calls in the Dublin region.
The system was criticised as having “inefficiencies” and “poor co-ordination” by a Hiqa report published last December.
“ It is vital that full consultation with unions now takes place over the six month transition period, as set out under the Haddington Road Agreement, before any new measures come into play. I have made that very clear to all involved,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I will not stand for a single fire brigade ambulance being taken out of service. If anything we may need more.”
“What is now being proposed is that the National Ambulance Service will take over back office functions such as call-taking, dispatch and clinical governance, from its new National Emergency Operations Centre in Tallaght.”
“This is happening because Hiqa has raised concerns around the fact that Dublin has two ambulance services that are not integrated, especially the fact that some patients occasionally fall between the two stools when calls are passed between the two services.”
Mr Varadkar said Hiqa has identified this as a patient safety risk and it “cannot be ignored.”
Siptu representative Brendan O’Brien told RTÉ radio one, they (Siptu) will hold a meeting this afternoon to discuss taking industrial action.
Mr O’Brien said he disputed the Hiqa report, “when Hiqa discuss inefficiencies and poor co-ordination, they’re referring that in relation to how the management liaise with each other,” he said.
The Hiqa report noted that Dublin Fire Brigade had a delayed response for 50 per cent of emergency calls and asked the NAS for assistance in one third of all calls.
Dublin Fire Brigade threatened industrial action last month over proposals to cut crew levels by up to a third.
Chief Executive of Dublin City Council Owen Keegan told RTÉ the new centre in Tallaght will provide unified call taking and dispatch which will address the weaknesses identified in the Hiqa report.
“It is quite clear that Hiqa have correctly identified an historic lack of co-operation and co-ordination between the two public service agencies charged with providing emergency ambulance services that is not sustainable. ”
“There’s no immediate change being implemented. We have agreed in principle with the HSE a way forward to address the weaknesses identified by Hiqa. There’s a process now to be gone through and there is provision for full consultation to be made in relation to the arrangements.”
“This is an issue where for too long, two agencies refused to address the issue. The relationship has been characterised by competition, inter services rivalries. Somebody has to intervene and say this is not good enough we need to put patients safety first.”
The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) has said confidence in the fire and ambulance services in Dublin would be “completely undermined” if control for the Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance service was transferred to the HSE’s National Ambulance Service.
IFESA President, John Kidd, said IFESA welcomed the recent assurances from Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar that no changes would take place in the current arrangements until there was full consultation with all stakeholders.
“City Manager Owen Keegan seemed intent on ignoring those commitments from the Minister. It is now time for Minster for the Environment, Alan Kelly to rein in the City Manager on this issue and protect the Dublin Fire Brigade Ambulance Service for the people of Dublin,” said Mr Kidd.
“It would be totally bizarre if the running of the DFB ambulance service were to be handed over to the NAS which has been discredited on so many occasions because of its failure to manage the ambulance services throughout the country. Its record of mismanagement, which is most evident in the failure to meet response times and which has cost lives, is appalling. In contrast the DFB which receives just 8 per cent of the NAS budget handles 60 per cent of all emergency calls in the state and has achieved in the past the second highest success rate for survival of cardiac arrests after Seattle.”
A review of the ambulance service was ordered last year following a long running dispute between Dublin City Council and the HSE.
The HSE pays the city council €10 million a year for the fire brigade's 12 ambulances that cover the central Dublin area.
But the HSE, which covers Tallaght and Co Dublin, believes it could provide the service for less cost as fire brigade staff are paid more that their ambulance workers.
For its part, Dublin City Council, which runs the fire brigade on behalf of all four Dublin local authorities, claimed the HSE payment does not cover its costs.
This evening in a briefing statement to councillors, Mr Keegan said agreement had been reached between the Dublin local authorities and the HSE that the NAS would take over ambulance calls in the Dublin region.
He said this was in recognition of the urgent need identified by HIQA for greater cooperation to ensure a "seamless, responsive and safe" ambulance service and safe pre-hospital emergency care.