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03 Dec 2021

Kilkenny hospital's taxi bill hits €260,000 over four years

Exclusive: Taxis from 19 different providers are used for patients and staff on “discretionary basis”

St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny City has spent over €260,000 on taxis over the last four years for patients and staff.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request revealed that the hospital’s spend on taxis was almost €80,000 last year and was over €75,000 in 2015 and €57,000 in 2014.

This year to date the hospital has spent almost €50,000 on taxis which may be used in cases “where an ambulance is not required”.

Taxi firms

The sums for each year have been paid to 19 different taxi companies, according to the information obtained.

The taxi businesses that have been used are: A1 Cabs; Arthur Kavanagh; CD Coaches; Caroline Culleton; Chris Vaughan; Christy Phelan and Falconers Taxi.

The rest include: Frank McEvoy; Frank O’Neill; James Walsh; Jerry Rowe; Maurice Nolan; Nicholas Byrne; Oliver O’Brien; Pat Barcoe; Pat Fennelly; Rapid Cabs; Robin Costello and Rory Halpin.

In response to the request, the Ireland East Hospital Group – of which St Luke’s is a part of – says “patient transport is provided to inpatients and staff on a discretionary basis and are used only when no other safe and cost effective transportation is available”.

Reasons

The National Ambulance Service helps people with serious or life-threatening conditions.

Every year the NAS receives between 275,000 and 280,000 emergency calls and it provides a number of inter-hospital transfers in addition.

There is a significant requirement for transfers of (mostly non urgent) public patients for various clinical reasons and private ambulance providers are used to provide additional capacity to handle such patient transfers, where deemed necessary and required by the HSE.

Examples include transfers between hospitals, between residential and acute settings and transfers for diagnostic tests at another hospital.

Taxis may be used in cases where an ambulance is not required, for example to transport dialysis patients between home and acute hospital.

Response

The IEHG said: “Taxis are used by St Luke’s General Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny in the following circumstances: Emergency Department /Medical Assessment patients/inpatients have no means of returning home safely, inpatients who require dialysis.”

They added: “Inpatients who need to attend appointments in University Hospital Waterford, some staff who need to attend outlying clinics in paediatrics or orthopaedics for example.

IEHG says in a broader context of health services, patient transport forms one thread in a complex canvas including public safety and geographical challenges.

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