Written answers

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Department of Defence

Defence Forces Equipment

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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118. To ask the Minister for Defence if his Department has found a solution to ensure that six ambulances which were purchased for the Defence Forces have been made safe to use, given that, despite costing nearly €900,000, a health and safety audit after the purchase found them unsafe to use; and if changes in the procurement of such vehicles are now in place to ensure this issue does not recur in the future. [21295/15]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I am advised that the Defence Forces ambulance fleet consists of both on-road and 4x4 off-road capable vehicles. Following a tender competition, a contract was awarded in April 2012 to Wilker Auto Conversions in Clara, County Offaly for an initial two 4x4 off-road Iveco ambulances. This was followed by a further order for four Iveco ambulances in 2013. The tender competition was carried out in accordance with standard procurement procedures and no procurement issues arose during the course of the competition.

I would like to emphasise that the tasking, purpose and utilisation of the 4x4 Iveco off-road ambulances differs from the normal road ambulance. Due to the nature of its requirement to be off-road capable, the chassis differs significantly from that of on-road ambulance vehicles. The Iveco vehicles have a high body necessary for off-road manoeuvrability and as a result, a minimum of four persons are needed to load and unload the stretcher when operating off-road in difficult terrain. I am advised that this would be standard practice for all military off-road ambulances which are not fitted with mechanical lifting assistance.

An issue arose with the Iveco ambulance when it was used, from time to time, in normal on-road scenarios and with the normal medical crew of two people. The crew of two people had difficulty lifting the stretcher into the ambulance. As a result of a follow-on assessment by the Defence Forces Safety Advisor in April 2015 it was affirmed by the military authorities that the minimum lift requirements in an on-road scenario should also be four people as it would be in an off-road scenario. Standard operating procedures and training is being provided on the safe use of the ambulance in an on-road scenario.

Furthermore, the focus in recent months has been to develop a cost effective solution to permit the ambulance to be used with a normal medical crew of two people. Work is ongoing on this solution at present.

I am assured by the military authorities that ambulances will be capable of safe operation both on-road and off-road.

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