UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick has spent more than €2m on private ambulances since 2011, which has been described as “further evidence of the drive towards privatisation of our health services”.
According to figures released by the HSE, UHL spent €452,593 on outsourcing ambulance services, the second highest annual expenditure this decade.
The highest annual expenditure was in 2016 when UHL spent €459,567 on private ambulances.
Last year’s bill was a significant increase on UHL’s spending on these services in comparison to previous years.
In 2011, UHL spent just €4,218 on private ambulances; €39,018 in 2012; €241,182 in 2013; 2014 saw a slight dip to €207,566; and rose again to €306,676 in 2015.
A total of €228,705 was spent on private ambulances in 2017.
University Maternity Hospital Limerick’s expenditure is minimal in comparison, as it spent €6,629 last year. Croom Orthopaedic Hospital spent €5,039 in 2018.
Since 2011, UHL has spent €2,049,526 on private ambulances.
Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan said: “This massive spend on hiring private ambulance services does not make financial sense or represent value for taxpayers’ money.
“The HSE and UHL should be purchasing and staffing new ambulances which would make more economic sense in the long run.”
His party colleague Louise O’Reilly TD received these figures following a parliamentary query to Minister for Health Simon Harris.
Deputy Quinlivan added: “Unless UHL invests in new ambulances the catchment area will become even more reliant on private providers.
“Last year spending on private ambulances in UHL was €452,593, compared with just €4,218 back in 2011. What on Earth could justify this enormous increased spend on private ambulances in just eight years?
“We need to fight back against the privatisation of our health service at the hands of Fine Gael.
“The State needs to ensure that we have a high quality, publicly owned stock of ambulances instead of putting money into the pockets of private companies which does not constitute value for money or a benefit to the taxpayer.”