Louth TD Imelda Munster has described HSE figures on the cost of private ambulances in Louth as “deeply shocking and public money down the drain”.
Deputy Munster said:
Our Lady of Lourdes hospital has spent almost three million euro on private ambulances over the last seven years reaching its highest ever figure of €496,031 in 2017. This is an exorbitant figure and it certainly does not represent value for tax payers money. Louth County Hospital spent over €21,000 Euro since 2012 with a peak spend of €8537 in 2016.
A hospital’s Ambulance Service is the front line of emergency medical and pre-hospital care and they play a vital role in saving lives as well as transferring patients. It should be noted that the total of €31 million spent on private ambulance services since 2011 by the HSE nationwide would have bought at least 140 fully equipped emergency ambulance. Our Lady of Lourdes hospital could have purchased thirteen new ambulances over the same period.
The HSE’s failure to invest in new ambulances will result in the continued disintegration of the ambulance asset stock which will cause even further reliance on private providers. This is evidenced in the fact that the cost of hiring private ambulances has quadrupled since 2011 from €2,128,882 to over €8 million last year.
The government needs to ensure that we have a high quality, publicly owned stock of ambulances instead of putting money into the pockets of private companies. I have written to the Minister calling on him to give direction to the HSE that this practice has to stop.
At September’s Louth County Council Meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough welcomed the inspection of multi-storey buildings by the Fire and Emergency Services. Buildings of seven storeys and over have been inspected following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London with additional fire safety assessments requested of external wall cladding.
Cllr McGeough said “the Fire Prevention section has also requested fire safety assessments of all two storey properties owned by Housing Agencies where council tenants are accommodated and I welcome that. The Fire Prevention Section has also contacted management companies or owners of all buildings in Louth where Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) tenants are living.”
Cllr McGeough raised the issue of private tenants and private landlords. “I asked if their properties were being inspected but was told that is the responsibility of the landlords themselves. I would now urge all landlords to check their properties periodically and ensure there are fire safety precautions in place. With an average of 60-70 house fires a year we need to be doing everything we can to avoid tragedies.”
Pearse McGeough went on to explain that “there are basic things you can ensure the property has: Smoke detectors, heat detectors and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors. The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 requires every house to have a fire blanket and a mains wired smoke alarm or two 10 year self-contained battery operated alarms. These are a few basics that can be done but could be enough to save a life or prevent extensive damage to a property.”
In correspondence with Irish Water Sinn Féin Councillor Kenneth Flood has questioned their contractors’ methods of installing water meters.
Councillor Flood asks “Although the Water Services Act allows Irish Water to meter all properties, I haven’t found the Article or Provision in the Act where it says they can dig up or cut into footpaths in estates that have not been taken in charge by the local authority or do any works without the permission of the company responsible for the area until such times as it is taken in charge.”
The Drogheda Councillor said “I don’t understand it, up to now any other Company who wanted to do work in an estate before it is taken in charge, has had to have permission from the Company responsible for the estate. How is Irish Water different from those Companies?”
Councillor Flood has asked Irish Water to provide him with the specific part of the legislation which covers this area.
Kenneth Flood has been inundated with citizens complaining about burst water mains and water disruption during the installation process and Louth County Council has had to step in to repair the damage after the contractors have left the area. As a result the Councillor has asked a series of questions from Irish Water:
“If IW contractors are working in an Estate that has not been taken in charge, will Louth County Council repair the damage in an estate not taken in charge, regardless of the scale?
“Is there legislation that covers who is obligated to repair any damage done in estates not yet taken in charge? If so, can you quote me the specific part that explains what will happen in the above scenario?
“I believe that Irish Water or any other Company for that matter, needs to have a permit to dig below 150mm and they also need to have a safe work plan in place before they carry out any work. Can you confirm if that is correct and these rules are being adhered to?”
Councillor Kenneth Flood has vowed to continue to oppose the water tax until such times as it is abolished. “Water is a human right and we already pay for it. We refuse to pay twice.”