Firefighters take action to halt ambulance service break-up

By Mary Dennehy

LAST year, the crew at Tallaght Fire Station responded to more than 10,200 emergency medical 999 calls, nearly 7,800 of which were attended in the Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance based at the Belgard Road station.

Last week, SIPTU firefighters voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial and strike action following a dispute with Dublin City Council, over “attempts” by senior management to “break up the Emergency Medical Service” provided by 12 Dublin Fire Brigade ambulances – which would result in the city ambulance service being operated solely by the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS).

Tallaght Fire Station 1 23022017

Alongside responding to fire incidents, Dublin Fire Brigade has also been providing an emergency 999/112 ambulance service for nearly 110 years, with all firefighters fully trained as paramedics.

However, according to SIPTU, Dublin City Council is attempting to break-up this emergency medical service, which would “compromise the safety of our members, who deliver this critical lifesaving service, as well as expose the public to increased risk.”

One of the busiest stations in the country, Tallaght Fire Station has two engines and one ambulance, which respond to calls from communities such as Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan, Palmerstown, Baldonnell, Walkinstown and other Dublin areas that border Kildare and Wicklow – alongside stretching into parts of Kildare.

According to figures seen by The Echo, the DFB ambulance based at Tallaght, responded to 7,779 emergency medical calls in 2016, alongside tagging along on 74 fire-related incidents as an added precaution.

As all firefighters are trained paramedics, the two fire engines at Tallaght also responded to 2,385 medical emergency calls – resulting in Tallaght Fire Station attending 10,238 medical emergencies in 2016.

These figures are separate to the 2,517 fire-related incidents that Tallaght Fire Station’s two engines attended last year.

Speaking to The Echo, a firefighter, who wishes to remain unnamed, said: “We believe that the council is trying to dismantle the DFB ambulance service and give it back to the HSE, which means in the long-run that city management will not pay for firefighters’ training.

“Having all of the firefighters trained as paramedics is so important – if there is no ambulance available, we can send a fire engine.

“Whether we are in the ambulance or the fire truck, DFB is, most of the time, the first on the scene . . . and because we all know each other there’s not a lot of talking, we can just get straight down to offering assistance.”

The firefighter added: “It is so much more beneficial for people across our communities to have an ambulance working out of Tallaght Fire Station and to have fully trained firefighters.

“Across our areas there are incidents such as shootings, stabbings, serious car crashes and incidents of cardiac arrests and due to our proximity to communities and a major road network we are very quick on the scene.

“Dismantling the service will definitely put people at risk.”

According to figures, the ambulance and one engine based at the nearby Nutgrove Fire Station in Rathfarnham also responded to more than 7,000 emergency medical calls last year.

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Organiser Division officer, John King said that the SIPTU DFB Strike Committee are considering options available, with SIPTU representatives remaining available for “meaningful engagement with the senior management of Dublin City Council”.

A comment from Dublin City Council was not available when contacted by The Echo.

MEMBERS of the public are encouraged to visit their local fire station on March 4 between 1pm and 2pm to support their community-based fire fighters, and the paramedic and medical emergency service that they provide.

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