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According to information released to the Medical Independent (MI) through the Freedom of Information Act, 52 vehicles have between 300,000 and 400,000 kilometres, 53 have 400,000 kilometres or more, while 79 vehicles have between 200,000 and 300,000 kilometres on their clocks.
Furthermore, 145 vehicles in the fleet are aged eight years or older.
Currently, the NAS has 264 emergency ambulances in service, with a total fleet of 496 resources, the HSE told MI.
“A part of the HSE NAS Fleet Procurement and Replacement Programme, all front-line, patient-carrying vehicles that are more than seven years old will be replaced by the end of July 2016,” said the HSE.
“Under the NAS Fleet replacement policy for 2016, over €18 million will be invested under the HSE Capital Programme. Nationally, a total of 50 new vehicles and 35 remount vehicles will be introduced.”
However, Mayo GP and former Dáil deputy Dr Jerry Cowley described the information obtained by MI as “unacceptable”.
“We have heard instances of doors falling off ambulances, of them breaking down. This has to change because somebody’s life is in danger or they need urgent definitive care, which they cannot get in a rural area,” he said. “People in rural areas are most dependent on the ambulance service, as the distances are so great to the hospitals.”
While he acknowledged that there have been some improvements in terms of ambulances serving rural communities, he insisted that NAS vehicles must meet minimum standards.
*This article was amended online on 11 July to change ‘miles’ to ‘kilometres’ due to an error on the part of the NAS in the figures they released.
See news analysis p6