SIPTU seeks restoration of allowances for ambulance staff

Ambulance staff at the HSE have sought to re-introduce allowances valued at about €2,500 per year which were abolished for new entrants recruited after 2012.

SIPTU, which represents staff at the national ambulance service has informed the Health Service Executive that it wants an immediate engagement aimed at ending the two-tier pay system in place in the national ambulance service.

HSE NAS Ambo Bike

The union said that staff recruited after 2012 were not paid either a cardiac allowance or a non-nursing Dublin travel allowance. The Dublin travel allowance was worth approximately €1,500 per year while the cardiac allowance was worth about €1,000 per year.

The then government scrapped allowances, including these and many others in 2012.

SIPTU said there were about 100 members not receiving the Dublin travel allowance and 320 not receiving the cardiac payment. Chief of Siptu’s Health Service division, Paul Bell said “This inequity in pay must cease and requires urgent attention in order to bring about pay equality across the pay scales applicable to the national ambulance service.”

The move by the union follows a deal agreed in principle last week with firefighters by Labour ministers in the former government Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly in which they indicated they were prepared in certain circumstances to abolish the controversial two-tier pay structure for post-2012 entrants.

In the case of the fire-fighters deal, the value of allowances scrapped for new entrants in 2012 would be incorporated into revised pay scales in return for co-operation on productivity initiatives and a commitment to work within public service agreements.

Under the move about 90 firefighters who were appointed to work in local authorities since 2012 would in effect regain a €4,500 rent allowance which had been scrapped at that time.

Report confirms under resourcing within NAS

The National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) has said that the findings of a new review of HIQA ambulance response times confirms NASRA’s own findings last year that the HIQA targets are impossible to meet and are exposing the public to danger.

NASRA National Chairman, Michael Dixon said: ‘NASRA’s statement last year that the worrying rise in the number of incidents of serious delays in ambulance response times was evidence that the service cannot meet the impossible HIQA response time targets, especially while resources and personnel were being cut, is sadly fully vindicated by the findings of the independent review ordered by the HSE, as reported in the media today.’

NASTRA HSE Ambulance

The review, which was carried out by UK consultancy Lightfoot Solutions on behalf of the HSE found that the NAS ‘cannot possibly’ achieve prescribed targets for response times, even if it were fully resourced and operating to international best practice standards, are particularly disturbing given the repeated defence by NAS management of their response times and their statements that the targets and resources in the NAS are in line with UK ambulance services.

Michael Dixon said ‘The independent review findings make it clear that because of the rural nature of the area that the NAS serves that we cannot meet the same response times as the UK and elsewhere.  The review also finds that the NAS needs an additional 750 staff and 250 ambulances to improve its performance in responding to emergencies in specified times.’

‘Just two weeks ago I told NASRA’s Annual Delegate Conference in Cavan that growing demands on the ambulance services and personnel cannot be met with the current staffing levels and that we are 400-500 staff short of what is needed to provide a fully staffed and sustainable ambulance service that can meet all of the demands on it.’

‘Today’s report confirms the understaffing and under resourcing of the ambulance service, however the HSE and National Ambulance Service deny this and instead continue the chaotic management of the services by relying on extended and unsustainable 12 -15 hour rosters, cancellation of leave, and overtime and non-rostered staff to keep ambulances on the road.’

NASRA is calling for the immediate publication of the full UK consultancy NAS Review and the NAS Capacity Review to allow a full debate on the state of the ambulance service and for both to be urgently considered by the Oireachtas Health Committee.

HSE Report says 750 more staff needed for NAS

A HSE report has found the National Ambulance Service needs 750 extra staff to respond to emergencies in specified times.

The paper claims an extra 250 ambulances are also required to try to meet official response targets.

However, it says Ireland is “too rural” to match the performance of ambulance services in countries like England.

The report was commissioned after a number of controversies over response times in rural areas and claims that it is under resourced.

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CUH has longest Ambulance response times

Ambulance response times at Cork University Hospital are longer than at any other hospital in the country, according to a new report by the Health Service Executive.

It takes 42.9 minutes for an ambulance to complete the drop-off of a patient at CUH, according to the research, which has yet to be published.

Ambulance at A&E Unit

The second longest is St Joseph’s, in Clonmel, averaging 40.4 minutes. CUH has said it had been extremely busy, with 20,000 new patients since the start of the year. 4,500 of these presented via ambulance.

“CUH is one of the largest ambulance-receiving hospitals in the country and every effort is made to release ambulances as soon as possible, but it is necessary to ensure that patients are transferred to an ED clinical cubicle safely,” said a spokesperson. “It is sometimes the case that several ambulances present at the same time, which can cause some delays and there is a system in place to address delays, when they occur.” The spokesperson said ambulance clinical handover performance is reviewed monthly by the management of CUH. Reasons for delays are also reviewed in detail.

“Early indications are that CUH has seen an improvement in April of this year,” they said.


Dublin Ambulance paramedics vote for Industrial action

SIPTU members working in the National Ambulance Service centre in Dublin have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a dispute over staffing levels.

In a statement this evening, SIPTU organiser John McCamley said that “members are calling on management to fulfil its obligations under the WRC proposals”.

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He went on to say that the present system of recruiting staff “is not fit for purpose” and that if the issues are not solved they will affect “the operation of the emergency control centre”.


Ambulance crews in Waterford resume industrial action

Industrial action by Waterford ambulance staff resumed this morning, and will continue for four days, the UNITE union has confirmed.

The staff say since the south east area was integrated into the National Emergency Operations Centre in Tallaght last summer, a number of issues have arisen.

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These include emergency crews being deployed to non-essential duties, leaving little or no emergency cover in Waterford city and county.

Staff working hours and break times are also being raised.

Union representatives met with the HSE yesterday, after which it was decided to reject the proposals advanced by management “since members did not feel they represented a long-term, sustainable resolution of the issues in dispute”, according to a UNITE statement.

“UNITE remains available to discuss our concerns,” said regional officer Tony Kelly.

“Our priority remains to ensure that our members can provide patients with the very highest standards of service and care.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thanks all the members of the public who have expressed their support for our action, which has been designed to avoid affecting patient care.”


Ambulance staff suspend strike for talks

Ambulance staff in Waterford are suspending their industrial action over the National Emergency Operations Centre.

Their union, Unite, says the action will recommence, and possibly escalate, if there is not enough progress during talks.

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The staff say that since the south east area was integrated into the National Emergency Operations Centre in Tallaght last summer, a number of issues have arisen which could put patient safety at risk.

Talks are due to begin on Thursday with management and a representative of the National Emergency Operations Centre.

Unite Regional Officer Tony Kelly said: “This morning, members commenced industrial action over the failure to resolve issues arising from new procedures which we believe could undermine patient safety. We have decided to suspend the action which started this morning to allow for further talks on Thursday. However, the action will recommence if the talks do not result in sufficient progress”.

“Our members are determined to ensure that the Waterford City and County ambulance service continues providing the highest levels of service to the public. Unite’s priority is to ensure and enhance patient safety,” Mr Kelly concluded.


Three firefighters suffer burns in Cork Incident

Gardai rushed three firefighters to hospital in the early hours of this morning following an explosion at a farm fire.

Emergency Services in Cork were called to a fire at a farm at Terelton, near Macroom.

The Munster Regional Control Centre in Limerick mobilised units of Cork County Fire Brigade from stations at Macroom and Dunmanway.

While firefighters were tackling the blaze, it is understood an explosion occurred at the farm and three firefighters from Macroom suffered severe burns as a result.


Speaking to this morning, TV3 News Correspondent Paul Byrne said ‘had the firefighters being inside the building at the time of the explosion, we would be looking at a very different tragedy this morning’.

Emergency Times understands injuries suffered by the firefighters were so severe that local gardai decided to rush the fire fighters to hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.

One firefighter was discharged at 8.30 this morning while two others remain n Cork University Hospital. Their condition is described as non-life threatening, however, they have severe burns.

Gardaí and the Health & Safety Authority are investigating the incident as it is classed as a Workplace Accident.

Paul Byrne told Emergency Times “Fire-fighters were tackling a fire at the fire when there was an explosion, and three firefighters got caught up in this fireball. Their injuries at the time were so severe that gardai decided to rush them to cork University Hospital rather than wait for an ambulance to arrive. One was discharged at 8.30 this morning, two others remain in hospital , their condition is described as non-life threatening however they have some severe burning to several parts of their bodies”.

Pay cuts reversed for new fire fighters

The Government has agreed to reverse pay cuts for new recruits in the fire service.

Under the agreement, firefighters hired after 2012 will regain €4,500 rent allowance which was taken away at the time.

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File Photo: SO Jamie Myler with new recruits at Hacketstown Training Centre.
Photo: Thomas Nolan

Outgoing Junior Minister Aodhan Ó Ríordáin has welcomed the breakthrough in the ongoing pay talks for firefighters. He said “I welcome the announcement agreement has been reached with members of the Fire Service. Firefighters are an integral and vital part of our emergency services, saving lives and property daily. It is absolutely the right decision that the vital and heroic lifesaving work they do is recognised not only in their working conditions, but also their pay packets”.

Firefighters have agreed to work on productivity and reform within the service aimed at achieving specific measures that will enhance the overall delivery of the fire service by local authorities.

Limerick TD: ‘Attacks on emergency services is a serious low in society’

A Full fire crew was attacked yesterday when they responded to a call-out to a bonfire in a housing estate.

One Units of Limerick City & County Fire Service were mobilised to a report of a bonfire close to the Claughaun Court estate, Garryowen at around 8pm yesterday evening.

When the fire crew emerged from the appliance which was parked on the road close to the incident, they were attacked by up to 15 youths who fired rocks, planks of wood and shovels at them. They also used pool cues during the attack.

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The fire appliance on which the fire crew rode was also damaged when a large rock was thrown through the windscreen.

A number of fire fighters were injured, thankfully however, none of them required hospital treatment. GArdai and an ambulance were called to the scene.

This is the second attack on Limerick Fire fighters since January. On that occasion, fire fighters who responded to a fire at St. Mary’s Park were attacked by another group, who threw roof slates, clocks, rocks and bottles at the crew.

Garryowen bonfire

Gardai are investigating yesterday’s incident and so far, no arrests have been made.

Amateur footage of yesterday’s incident has emerged, which shows the gang of thugs attacking the fire fighters.

Garryowen Bonfire Tradition

A bonfire is lit in housing estates in Garryowen on the eve of May every year. In 2012, fire fighters in Limerick were also attacked when they were called to deal with an out of control fire on a housing estate. Some fire fighters were taken to hospital following that attack.

Similar incidents of attacks on emergency service personnel have been widely condemned with many calling for full implementation of the legislation to allow for full prosecutions, leading to mandatory jail sentences, for attacks on members of the emergency services.

Limerick FF TD Deputy Niall Collins said attacks on emergency services were a “serious low in society, and something that should be eradicated with the appropriate deterrents.”

Last year, IFESA, the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association, called for the then Government to review their decision to reject legislation allowing mandatory jail sentences for those convicted of assaulting and injuring emergency services workers.

The association says that every 36 hours, a member of the frontline emergency services is attacked while on duty. Over the past eight years, an estimated 2,000 serious attacks have taken place on emergency services workers in Ireland, with 1,551 attacks confirmed between 2006 and 2011.

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While the numbers of attacks on Limerick fire fighters is below the national average, there has been a slight increase on the numbers of attacks and the premeditation used by the offenders.

Speaking about previous attacks on frontline staff, IFESA chairman John Kidd said that frontline services are not being properly protected by the Government. “It is an extraordinary situation that emergency workers, who everyone in society says are doing a great job, are not being properly protected in the course of their duties,” he said.

Video footage of the atacs.