Date Released: 29 April 2013
Louth Labour Deputy Gerald Nash has joined SIPTU in voicing concerns over plans to temporarily transfer the entire National Ambulance Control Centre into one building in Townsend Street, Dublin. Control centres across the country will start to close from 15th May and all emergency calls will be handled in Townsend Street.
“This move doesn't make any sense to me. The end plan is to have two state of the art control centres to serve the entire country, one based in Donegal and one based in Tallaght. This solution has been agreed by everyone and follows international best practice. All transitions are difficult and have to be handled carefully especially with a service as critical as this one. To add in another temporary change just does not make any practical sense. It won't save money. If anything it will cost more money and may introduce additional risks.
"My understanding also is that the building in Townsend Street is simply not capable of facilitating the extra staff that will be needed to handle double the calls that the centre presently deals with. This looks like a decision signed off in haste with no real understanding of the on-the-ground consequences.
"Last year I met with senior officers at the National Ambulance Service and I must say I came away from the meeting very impressed with the quality and dedication of their work and their plans for the future.
"I intend to raise this in the Dáil this week with the Minister and I hope that we can get a sensible and safe solution."
The Labour TD's move follows SIPTU last week alerting the Minister for Health, James Reilly, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) and the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) to its concerns over the proposed closure by the National Ambulance Service.
SIPTU members in the ambulance centre in Townsend Street believe that the facility is not structurally fit to accommodate the transfer of emergency calls from the closed control centres.
SIPTU Sectoral Organiser, Kevin Figgis said: “We have written to the Minister for Health, the HSA and HIQA to alert them to the proposals as we are deeply concerned that there will be serious implications for patient safety. It was never envisaged that emergency calls from Cork, Kerry and Navan would be diverted to Townsend Street. The increase in staff required has also raised significant health and safety issues due to the lack of space for desks and emergency response equipment.”
He said that union representatives requested an independent health and safety audit of the facility to ensure that it will meet statutory requirements but that this had been rejected by ambulance management. Staff in Townsend Street will also be required to adapt to different IT systems as each base uses different technology for taking and dispatching emergency calls.
“The closures should have coincided with the opening of the new centre in Tallaght. Given the potentially serious implications for staff and the public, we are asking the Minister, the HSA and HIQA to intervene in this matter before it is too late,” Kevin Figgis said.