One taxi firm was paid more than €1.8m by the HSE last year, as the overall spend by the health authority on taxi services totalled €24.8m.
Figures released by the HSE under the Freedom of Information Act show that three taxi firms — National Radio Cabs in Dublin, Sun Cabs in Cork, and Seirbhís Iompair Tuaithe Teo, in Kilcar, Co Donegal — last year received payments in excess of €1m.
However, the overall HSE taxi bill fell by €1.5m, or 6%, on 2011, from €26.428m to €24.861m last year.
National Radio Cabs last year got €1.8m for taxi services to the HSE in the Dublin Mid Leinster and Northern areas.
Seirbhís Iompair Tuaithe Teo got €1.6m for services in the north west, while Sun Cabs received payments of €1.02m for taxi services in the HSE South area.
National Radio Cabs is the largest taxi firm in the country with over 700 cabs on the road.
Overall, the HSE’s biggest spend of €6.4m was in the Dublin/Mid-Leinster area.
A number of taxi firms received payments in excess of €500,000, with two firms serving the Dublin/Mid-Leinster area, Precious Cargo and Dave’s Taxis, receiving payments totalling €637,826 and €629,153 respectively.
The spend by the HSE from its corporate section on taxis last year fell from €334,323 to €314,783.
Spending declined in the HSE West from €2.1m to €1.8m; in the mid-west from €1.54m to €1.33m; in north east from €4.8m to €4.3m, and in the south east region from €3.4m to €3.2m.
Spending increased in the north west from €2.98m to €3.04m and in the northern area, where the amount paid out increased from €1m to €1.2m.
The HSE yesterday said: “Spend on taxis was one of the areas targeted by the HSE last year as part of cost containment measures.
“As is evident from the detail on spend across each of the HSE regions, significant savings of over €1.5m were achieved in this area last year.
“HSE vehicles and their staff are prioritised for frontline emergency work and therefore a much more effective service is provided for patients or clients who are not acutely ill through the use of taxis.
“The HSE has engaged with the National Taxi Regulator to ensure that appropriate quality and standards are in place for such services.
“The use of taxis for patient transport represents a more cost-effective solution when compared to investment in a fleet of HSE-owned vehicles for this purpose.
“Additional costs relating to this would include the provision of 24/7 staffing, maintenance, fuel, insurance and tax.
“The use of taxis also allows the HSE flexibility in the face of variable demand.”
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