Fire Brigade: concerns

Large areas of Swords in north Co Dublin are to lose fire brigade and ambulance services, despite the fact the emergency services there receive over 4,000 calls a year.

This follows a decision by the HSE not to fund the service, which up until now has been paid for by Dublin City Council from its own funds.

The HSE said the ambulance service would have to be provided from an existing ambulance station at Lissenhall in Swords. However, this has prompted concerns about the impact the removal of the current fire brigade and ambulance service will have on patient safety and response times.

According to a report circulated at a recent meeting of Dublin City Council, the fire brigade currently responds to more than 4,000 calls yearly.

But councillors were told that despite ongoing negotiations with the HSE, Dublin City Council had been unable to secure funding for the service.

As a result, it has now informed the HSE that due to budgetary constraints it will have to withdraw this service. It also says it is owed arrears of €8.6m by the HSE on the ambulance account, a figures it says the HSE disputes.

Labour Party councillor Kevin Humphreys described the HSE decision not to fund the service as a "retrograde step" and called on it to reconsider.

"The records show there is clearly a need for this service. But Dublin City Council can only provide it if the HSE is going to pay for it," he said. "The Lissenhall ambulance station is currently in operation and still the fire brigade and ambulance service in Swords is providing up to 4,000 callouts. It is clear that ambulance response times will deteriorate as a result of this move."

However, a HSE spokeswoman said the issue of the withdrawal of fire brigade and ambulance services from the Swords area "is a matter for the council".

"Dublin Fire Brigade [DFB] has never been funded by HSE to provide an ambulance service in Swords as we already do this ourselves from our base at Lissenhall, Swords," she said. "We fund all other ambulances provided by DFB in Dublin. DFB put an ambulance base in their fire station in Swords at their own expense. They have given us notice that they will be withdrawing this service due to cost-saving measures."

"Resources from the national ambulance service north-east division [at Lissenhall] can also be deployed when required into the area, as can resources from other divisions on request."