Ambulance Service still waiting for new ambulances and staff
CORFU. The project for the supply of 18 ambulances is being retendered – Still no advertisement for the positions by ASEP for new recruitments.
The Ambulance Service (EKAB) is proceeding with the supply of new ambulances at a snail's pace. Combined with the already slow pace of the public sector, a single obstacle is enough to stop the procedures and it could take years for them to start again.
The project was included in the ESPA Programme - initially for 9 ambulances - in December 2019 by the Regional Authority with a €737,000 budget. According to the contract signed by the Ionian Islands Regions and EKAB, the latter is responsible for the tender of the project. However, two years have passed and nothing has happened.
At the end of 2021, EKAB asked the Region to modify the integration act due to increased needs, in order to receive 18 instead of 9 ambulances to replace the whole fleet (9 will be for Corfu). Indeed, the Managing Authority modified the act and increased the amount to €1,376,000. The tender was published in January 2022, but there was no interest.
"Either the amount was low or the requirements were outdated, these were the terms of the tendering procedure set by EKAB", said the Deputy Governor for Public Health and Welfare Melita Andrioti. "I am in constant communication with the responsible bodies" she continued. "I was recently informed that they were told to prepare new revised tender documents, while the deadline is 31 March. I was assured that the project will be retendered in the very near future. The deadline will be 31 December 2023, but we are putting pressure in order to have the new vehicles by the end of 2022”.
However, the understaffing of the ambulance service is a bigger problem than the lack of vehicles. This is because no matter how many vehicles the service has, there must be the necessary crew to use them. South Corfu ambulance service, for example, cannot operate on a daily basis, as the President of Corfu Ambulance Service Employees Union Christos Kypriotis told Enimerosi. He also said that the service needs at least another 15 staff. Thus, the entire island has to rely on two or three ambulances, which means that it could take up to an hour for them to reach their destination.
How much do private ambulances cost?
This gap is necessarily being filled by the ambulances of private clinics. A private clinic owner told Enimerosi that the use of a private ambulance costs between €50 and €100, depending on how far the final destination is from the centre. “However, an EKAB ambulance is often not available and we are always at the service of the citizen, whether they have private insurance or not,” he said.
No one is sparing money when it comes to life-and-death issues, even in these difficult economic times. However, we cannot talk about public health, since we are paying for it through taxation.
“We cannot afford a private ambulance”, the President of Corfu Kidney Patients Association Panayiotis Kormaris told Enimerosi. “If someone is bedridden and needs an ambulance for dialysis three times a week, it can cost €300 - €400 a month. Apart from that, the EKAB ambulance will come whenever it is available. If emergencies arise, the ambulance could come after many hours.”
“We've talked to all the necessary bodies over and over again, they all seem to understand the service's problems, but all we hear is promises. We are waiting for the advertisement for the positions by ASEP for the staffing of the service, but no one knows when it will happen,” said the President of Corfu Ambulance Service Employees Union. The Deputy Governor for Public Health and Welfare Melita Andrioti said that she is constantly putting pressure to the government. “The Minister of Health has assured the Regional Governor that the announcement will be made very soon,” she added.
It is unknown how many months it will take for the tender and recruitment process to be completed. However, every minute that passes without any progress, a human life is at risk.