Limerick hospitals spent €367k on private ambulances

London-ambulance-in-the-street-548229PRIVATE ambulance transport cost the University of Limerick hospitals group €367,043 last year.

The use of private ambulances comes against the backdrop of last week’s revelations in the Limerick Post that the intermediate ambulance service, which is the section responsible for bringing patients between hospitals and nursing homes, is short-staffed.

And the €367,043 figure confirmed by the hospitals group this week does not include the amount paid by private patients’ insurers or the use of taxis to transport some patients.

The HSE is taking issue with last week’s report that one ambulance trip between Limerick and Ennis cost €400.

In a statement on the use of private ambulances, the HSE said that there are occasions when private transport has to be used. 

“There are occasions when the hospital staff, mainly admissions staff or transport coordinators, arrange the use of a private ambulance company to transport public patients.  This happens only when the National Ambulance Service are not available to do the transfer themselves and, in such situations, our priority is to get the patient moved to where they need to go as quickly as possible.

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“This may involve a transfer to another hospital within our group such as Nenagh, Ennis or St John’s, or to the community hospital setting, often to create capacity and reduce pressure in the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick.

“Alternatively, a patient may require transfer to another acute hospital elsewhere in Ireland. All of these transfers are done in conformance with the nationally negotiated Private Ambulance Framework.

“The organisation of private ambulance transport for private patients is also done by UL Hospitals staff in accordance with the arrangements that health insurance companies have in place with the private providers.

“Private ambulance transfers, for the vast majority of private patients, are paid for by private patients’ health insurance policies”.

The HSE statement went on to state that ‘providers charge different costs as per their original tenders.

“While we cannot divulge the unit cost that different providers charge, as this is commercially sensitive information, we can confirm that the journey from Limerick to Ennis was substantially less than the €400 previously reported”.

“Private ambulance spend in the UL Hospital Group for 2015 was €367,043, and this figure accounts predominantly for public patient transfers, a small number may be for private patients whose health insurance does not provide for ambulance cover”, the statement concluded.