At the March Meeting of the Regional Health Forum, Cllr Tom Wood called for immediate action to improve the HSE Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service within the region as many users of the service had serious difficulties with it and how it operated.
While accepting that it was not possible to facilitate every request for transport to hospitals and that funding was a major issue he questioned why an elderly person from the Cashel area with a 9.30am appointment for treatment at a Cork hospital was told to use her bus pass and he called on the Health Service Executive to ensure that telephone calls and fax messages were attended to and answered within a reasonable time.
In his response, Mr. Ger O’Callaghan, Chief Operations Officer, South/South West Hospitals Group, said that over recent months a number of concerns had been raised around the provision and entitlement to the transport service and he outlined the current policy position and the arrangements in place to oversee and ensure that the service remains available to those in need.
“Patient Transport Services were provided by the HSE on a discretionary basis to those most in need.
“Within the South East a full review on the provision of Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services (NEPTS) was undertaken in 2012 and concluded in 2013.
The review highlighted that governance, efficiencies and control of the service must be improved and the service must operate within a finite budget.”
He continued: “the South East Community and Hospital Services continue to provide Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services to the public. All established routes remain in place and the Patient Transport Office schedule various types of vehicles on routes depending on public requirements and requests. Scheduled routes are not available every day and to all locations.
“Scheduled routes are cancelled if there are no individuals requesting to travel on particular days. In order to ensure that a funded NEPTS remains available the HSE are now and incrementally reviewing eligibility for current and future people availing of the service.
“This will ensure the continuity of it into the future and the availability to the public that need it within the funding available,” added Mr O’Callaghan.