Date Released: 24 April 2013
SIPTU has alerted the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) to its concerns relating to the proposed closure by the National Ambulance Service of a number of ambulance control centres across the country and the transfer of emergency calls to Townsend Street, Dublin. Control centres in Cork and Kerry will close in May under the proposals while the Navan centre will close in June. SIPTU members in the control centre in Townsend Street believe that the facility is not structurally fit to accommodate the transfer of emergency calls from the centres facing closure.
SIPTU Sectoral Organiser, Kevin Figgis said: “The previous plan of the National Ambulance Service was to close the nine existing centres and to have two ‘state of the art’ national control centres in Ballyshannon, county Donegal and Tallaght in Dublin. We are deeply concerned that a stop gap approach is now being used to close some of the existing centres and transfer all emergency calls to Townsend Street, prior to the opening of the new national centre in Tallaght.”
The Townsend Street Ambulance Control Centre currently provides a service to counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow and responds to an average of 180 emergency calls a day. The control room is a shared facility with Dublin Fire Brigade and the proposals will see more than a doubling of emergency call activity at the centre.
"We have written to HIQA to alert them to the proposals as we are deeply concerned that there will be a serious implication for patient safety. It was never envisaged that emergency calls from Cork, Kerry and Navan would be diverted to Townsend Street. Our members believe it not structurally designed to accommodate this volume of calls given that it is a shared facility and space is limited. The increase in staff required has also raised significant health and safety issues.,” Kevin Figgis said.
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 transferred to Townsend Street will also be required to adapt to different IT systems which could delay responses to emergency calls and further threaten patient safety.
“We are deeply concerned that ambulance management has refused our request for an independent health and safety audit. We will be pursuing this matter further given the potentially serious implications for staff and the public,” Kevin Figgis said.