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Govt and GSD clash again on ambulances

Photo by Johnny Bugeja,

The GSD on Wednesday said the public deserves to know why two of the GHA ambulances have been “out of action for several months putting as risk the health and safety of patients requiring this service”.

It also questioned what other measures are being considered to enable Gibraltar’s ambulances to transport patients to Spain.

It called on the Government to “immediately reassure the public” and to answer the GSD’s questions.

This is the latest in an exchange where the GSD and the Government clashed on the provision of the GHA Ambulance service and the delivery of local patients to Spain for medical treatment.

No.6 Convent Place said earlier this week that the issue with cross-border transfers arose because of Brexit and that the issue had been aired in Parliament recently.

No.6 Convent Place questioned Mr Phillips’ absence from Parliament, adding that the challenges with ambulance services were discussed in Parliament “just two months ago”.

But the GSD remained unconvinced.

“The fiery response by the Government yet again demonstrates that they are simply unwilling to answer the questions properly put by the Opposition,” the GSD said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The public now has a very clear picture of the challenges faced by the Opposition where the Government are often less than forthcoming in parliamentary exchanges.”

“Despite what was implied in the Government’s intemperate response, Mr Phillips was in the Parliament chamber on March 24, 2023 and the question related to the contractual arrangements between the Government and Spanish ambulance contractors.”

The GSD said it was revealed in the House that in 2022 the Government has spent nearly

£400,000 on Spanish contractors to transport GHA patients in Spain and for the first four months of 2023, the Government had spent over £200,000.

“It would appear likely that that the overall figure for 2023 may well exceed £600,000,” the Opposition said.

“The public deserve to understand why two of our GHA ambulances have been out of action for several months putting at risk the health and safety of patients requiring this service.” “The Government must now immediately reassure the public and answer questions the GSD have put to it.”

“Secondly, the Government characterises the failure to put in place a permanent solution to allow our ambulances to cross the border so that our people can undergo routine treatment as a ‘Brexit consequence’.”

“The suggestion that the GSD would somehow compromise sovereignty to allow patients to attend routine appointments in Spain is ridiculous and unworthy of a response,” the GSD added.

“What the Government cannot do is hide behind its failure to get this issue dealt with.”

“If the Government are saying that the Spanish Government are not prepared to allow sick people requiring routine medical treatment in Spain unless we allow them to encroach on our redlines on sovereignty jurisdiction and control, we have a bigger problem than anyone would have anticipated.”

“With less reliance on UK tertiary providers and increased use of healthcare provision in Spain, access by our own ambulances is critical and a long-term solution must be found beyond using Spanish contracted ambulances.”

The GSD said the Government needs to set out in detail why they have been unable to resolve this issue thus far and what other measures are being considered to enable Gibraltar’s ambulances to transport patients to Spain.

“If no solution can be found, they should say so instead of putting out smoke screens for their continuing failures on Brexit related issues,” the GSD added.

A few hours later the Government reacted to the GSD in a cutting statement.

It said the “confused” statement issued by the GSD “demonstrates again why they cannot be trusted as they fail to pay any attention to the detail of anything they do”.

“The statement says Mr Phillips was in the Parliament Chamber on 24th March 2023,” the statement from No.6 Convent Place read.

“This is wrong and untrue.”

“Parliament was not even sitting on the March 24, 2023, and the question on Ambulances was fully explained on the May 24, 2023.”

“They are simply unable to get anything right and take no care on the detail of anything.”

The Government said the arrangements for the ambulances arise from Brexit and that it has made alternative arrangements to ensure the community is able to access healthcare in both emergency situations, when its own ambulances are able to cross the frontier into Spain, and in non-emergency cases where it uses Spanish contractors to provide this service.

“This was all explained to Mr Phillips in Parliament,” the Government said.

“The GHA have five front line ambulances, and two non-urgent transport ambulances. In addition we also have two rapid response vehicles and when more capacity is required, we also have access to the St Johns ambulances.”

“Gibraltar is fortunate that the confused and absent Mr Phillips is not charged with responsibility in any of these areas as he demonstrates time and again that he is not prepared to do his homework or care for the detail, let alone attend Parliament for the most important session of the year, the Budget delivery and Committee stage of our Estimates.”

“Our community knows full well that Government has made all the necessary arrangements to ensure that our patients have direct access to healthcare wherever they need it, whenever they need it and that they are safe with this Government.”

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