Govt ‘extremely concerned’ Gibraltar ambulances denied entry into Spain
Gibraltar ambulances will only be able to transfer routine patients for treatment to Spanish hospitals if they are staffed by GHA employees who live in Spain or by EU nationals, the Government confirmed on Friday, adding it was ‘extremely concerned’ over this new Brexit development.
The statement follows questions from the GSD that Gibraltar ambulances and paramedics were being denied entry at the border.
The Government said ambulance drivers and staff are being classed in the same way as the drivers of commercial vehicles with a requirement to register their employment status in the European Union.
“There will be an exception made for emergency patients in ‘life or death’ situations, when GHA staff resident in Gibraltar will be able to carry out the transfer, on the basis that prior warning is given and evidence of the condition of the patient is provided,” the Government said.
“The same rules have been applied to St John Ambulance even though this is a charity largely manned by volunteers not by employees and evidently also not a commercial operation.”
The Government added is also another urgent and important issue with the transfer of platelets from Spain, as Gibraltar relies on Jerez who supply platelets when required in an emergency.
“In the past, these have been couriered to La Linea and then collected by GHA Ambulance to transfer to St Bernard’s Hospital,” the Government said.
“The GHA is making alternative arrangements.”
The new situation means Gibraltar Ambulance Service can carry out routine transfers to and from Spain, and it will have to be done by GHA staff that resides in Spain.
“In addition to this, they will need a Spanish contract of employment and this will also apply to everyone within the ambulance with the exception of the patient,” the Government said.
“Spanish Ambulances to carry out routine transfers to and from Spain will have no issue unless Gibraltar stops them from operating. This one of the contingencies at present while the issue is resolved.”
“St John Ambulance to carry out routine transfers to and from Spain will have to be done by their staff that resides in Spain. In addition to this, they will need a Spanish contract of employment and this will also apply to everyone within the ambulance with the exception of the patient.”
“Spain will only allow GHA staff resident in Gibraltar to convey a patient to Spain if it is a matter of life or death, the clinician in the ambulance (Paramedic or Doctor) provides evidence on the condition of the patient, and this will also have to be done with prior warning to the frontier Spanish authorities.”
“Given that the issue at stake is the health of citizens, and the potential for life or death situations to emerge, the Government is extremely concerned at these developments and have already raised the matter at a higher level both with the United Kingdom and with Spain.”
The GSD said it was shocked and deeply concerned to hear ambulances were being denied entry at the border.
“Either it is an example of poor planning at best or sheer incompetence at worst that the Government has not been able to make provision for sick and vulnerable people requiring medical treatment in Spain,” Shadow Health Minister Elliott Phillips said.
“Brexit has challenged us all, but it cannot be right that the transit of our patients for medical services and treatment has been prevented or delayed by red tape at the border.”
“We ask why the Government has not foreseen this or put in place contingencies in place to minimise the impact on patients.”
“We call on the Government to issue an immediate statement reassuring the public that no patient transiting across the border by ambulance for medical treatment in Spain will be refused entry or experience delay.”
“The Government must do all it can to take the matter up with its Spanish counterparts immediately to resolve the problem.”