Replace broken

Emergency ambulances broke down 52 times last year

Emergency ambulances owned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) have broken down 173 times since 2018, according to new figures.

at first, one in five ambulances currently in service are five or six years old, despite HSE policy dictating that vehicles must be replaced after five years.

More than 10% of the national fleet also have more than 300,000 km on the clock. While the HSE places no limits on odometer readings, Garda vehicles are withdrawn after 300,000 km for safety reasons.

Freedom of Information records show that 173 mechanical breakdowns involving emergency ambulances have been recorded in the last four and a half years, including 35 in Dublin.

The national fleet currently consists of 303 Mercedes Sprinters with odometer readings at the end of June ranging from 200km to 389,397km.

Some 11 of the vehicles were six years old, while 45 were registered in 2017, making them five years old in 2022.

An HSE spokesperson said the National Ambulance Service (NAS) operates more than 700 vehicles, including intermediate care and rapid response transport. Together, they cover more than 25 million kilometers per year.

“Robust vehicle maintenance procedures are in place, which include roadworthy vehicle inspections every eight weeks. These inspections are in addition to the routine inspections carried out every 20,000 km on the road,” he said.

“The NAS has a five-year vehicle replacement plan in place for emergency ambulances and a six-year replacement plan for intermediate care and rapid response vehicles.”

Last year, emergency ambulances broke down 52 times, including 16 in Dublin. Outages were also reported five times in Kerry and three times in Ennis, County Clare.

There were 30 outages in 2020, including five in Ennis, four in Dublin and three in Limerick. In the previous year, 39 outages were recorded, including six in Dublin, four in Kilkenny and three in Clare.

In 2018, 33 mechanical breakdowns including seven in Dublin, six in Limerick, four in Cork and two in Naas, Co Kildare.

The causes of the mechanical failure were not specified by the HSE. In the past, however, it has been ‘loss of power’, ‘electrical failures’, wheel changes and simply that the ambulance ‘won’t start’.