HEALTH BOARDS' EUR11M TAXI FARE; EXCLUSIVE L Cabs Are Used to Transport Patients L Money Could Buy 76 New Ambulances
Byline: DARA deFAOITE
HEALTH Boards spent almost e11million on taxis last year for patients.
The amount paid by each of the 10 regional health boards transporting the sick to hospitals and day care centres varied between EUR229,000 and EUR2.8million.
Two of the country's biggest spenders, the North Eastern Health Board (NEHB) and North Western Health Board (NWHB), accounted for almost EUR5.4million in cab fares.
A spokesman for the NEHB said: "The cost of taxis and minibus hire for the North Eastern Health Board area last year was EUR2.8million.
"These vehicles are used to transport a number of those using the services of the health board."
The final taxi fare for the 10 boards was EUR10,699,000 - the price of 42 specialist ambulances for carrying critically-ill newborn babies to maternity hospitals.
The money could also buy 76 standard ambulances, which cost EUR140,000 each.
Many of the health boards covering rural areas blame a lack of public transport on the high use of taxis.
The Western Health Board (WHB) spent EUR1.3million ferrying patients from hospital to hospital and to their homes.
A spokesman said: "Taxis constitute the biggest spend in the health board subsidised transport budget.
"This is because of the rural nature of most of the counties of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon and the relatively poor public transport system."
The Midlands Health Board (MHB) was one of the more frugal spenders, paying out pounds 229,000.
Dymphna Bracken of the MHB said: "There are three hospitals - Portlaoise, Tullamore and Mullingar - in the region. However, most of the surrounding towns do not have public transport links to these hospitals."
In the Cork and Kerry region the Southern Health Board (SHB) spent pounds 700,000 on cabs.
A spokesman said: "The Southern Health Board is the largest in the country.
"We serve a widely dispersed population of 600,000 people in Cork and Kerry.
"This requires the use of taxis for the transport of patients.
"They include dialysis patients and cancer patients requiring radiotherapy treatment."
Stephen McGrath of the Northern Area Health Board (NAHB) said a tender for a permanent patient transport service in his region is currently under review.
He added: "The cost of taxis used for the transfer of patients last year was pounds 229,425. …