Health bosses criticised over taxis
Health chiefs have forked out more than 120 million euro on taxis over the past four years, it has emerged.
An opposition TD revealed the Health Service Executive (HSE) has spent an average 29 million euro per annum on hiring transport for patients and staff.
Fine Gael's Dr James Reilly called for efficiencies to be made throughout the health service in place of painful cutbacks to patient services.
"Clearly there is a need to provide transport for patients but there must be a question mark over whether this is the most efficient, safest way to meet that need," said Dr Reilly.
"Furthermore, while it is true that staff will be required to accompany patients from time to time, a bill for staff taxis of 650,000 to 700,000 euro sounds alarm bells. The HSE must provide a proper breakdown of this cost."
Dr Reilly, the party's health spokesman and deputy leader, obtained the figures in response to a Parliamentary Question.
The HSE said the use of taxis for patient transport represented a more cost effective solution when compared to investment in a fleet of HSE-owned vehicles, which would have additional costs relating to the provision of 24/7 staffing, maintenance, fuel, insurance and tax.
Elsewhere it revealed a review of the current patient transport service was under way after last year's McCarthy Report recommended a 20% saving in the area.
Dr Reilly maintained no changes were made to the service after an internal review in 2008 and criticised reports that the HSE has not tendered for taxi services since it was set up in 2005.
"Instead of prioritising value for money, Minister (Mary) Harney and the HSE slash away at front line services to the real detriment of patients and have imposed stealth taxes, such as the prescription charges, on the poorest and sickest in society," he added.