The HSE is to meet with the operator of a hospital bus service that ended last Friday, due to funding cuts.
Francis Marley of Marley Coaches in Cloghan, Ballybofey, operated the service, which brought Donegal patients to and from their hospital appointments in Dublin, for 35 years.
The HSE recently withdrew funding for the service, saying that the increased number of public buses operating on the Donegal to Dublin route, with shorter journey times, could cater for the patients. The HSE also said that, with just five people using the bus, it was not viable.
Mr Marley, however, stated that, according to his records, on average, ten people per day were using the service.
He emailed the HSE last Wednesday, proposing to approximately halve the cost of the service, from €93,000 per year to €55,000. He said: “We reduced our own costs and the patients volunteered to pay more than the €12.50 contribution they make to each return journey. When we did our sums we figured we could still provide the same service five days a week.”
Yesterday, he said that the HSE had sent an email in reply, stating their willingness “to talk to” him about the service.
A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed the news, stating: “The HSE will consider the proposal submitted by Francis Marley and will engage directly with the provider in the coming weeks.”
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said the government’s decision this week to give CIE €36m while allowing the HSE to shut down a hospital bus service between Donegal and Dublin reflects “skewed priorities”.
Senator Ó Domhnaill said the withdrawal of the service would cause great hardship for patients, who would now have to find their own way from bus drop off points to their hospital appointments and back again.
He added: “This raises very serious questions about the Government’s priorities. There will no longer be a specialised HSE bus to take Donegal patients to Dublin hospitals for treatment because the Government wants to cut costs. Meanwhile, they are pumping millions into CIÉ that they managed to get from elsewhere in the transport budget. “This entire announcement reveals skewed priorities, poor planning and a lack of understanding of the most basic economics.”