The HSE has spent over €121 million on taxis since 2006, new figures have shown.
According to Fine Gael's health spokesperson, Dr James Reilly, figures obtained by the party show that the HSE is spending an average of €29 million per year on taxis. He insisted that effeciencies could be made on this bill and 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, safe way to meet that need," Dr Reilly said.
The figures reveal that in 2009, over €26 million was spent on taxis for patients, while a further €659,020 was spent on taxis for staff. This marked a small drop from 2008's figures of over €27 million for patients and €713,193 for staff.
In the first three months of this year alone, €5.6 million was spent on patient taxis and €170,202 on staff taxis.
Dr Reilly insisted that the bill for staff taxis ‘sounds alarm bells' and called for a full breakdown of the figures from the HSE.
The figures were contained in the HSE's response to a parliamentary question put forward by Fine Gael. According to Dr Reilly, in its reply, the Executive suggests that the use of taxis is more cost effective than investing in HSE owned vehicles, but he insists that this assertion ‘is certainly open to challenge'.
"Last year, the McCarthy Report recommended a review of patient transport services with a view to achieving savings of at least 20%. The HSE claims it is currently reviewing patient transport expenditure on foot of McCarthy's recommendation, however, it already conducted an internal review in 2008 but nothing seems to have happened," Dr Reilly said.
He pointed out that last week, it also came to light that the HSE has not tendered for taxi services since it was set up in 2005. This has meant that certain taxi providers ‘have been able to hang onto generous contracts without being subject to any competition in the area'.
"Instead of prioritising value for money, Minister 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," Dr Reilly added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.