The executive is spending nearly €50,000 on taxi services every day
There have been calls to scrutinize spending by the Health Service Executive (HSE) after figures revealed they are spending €50,000 a day on taxis.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show a massive spend by the executive on taxi services over the past few years.
More than €2,000 an hour is the mammoth bill the HSE is wracking up on taxis.
Two taxi companies, NRC and Dave's Taxis, have been paid more than €1m in fares this year alone.
While €910,000 was paid to Mallow Taxi Co Ltd this year. A further 34 companies have been paid in excess of €100,000.
In total between January and October 2016, almost €16m was spent on taxis by the executive.
The HSE spend works out at €2,079 every single hour since the start of 2012.
When asked to comment on the figures, a spokesman said: "HSE vehicles and their staff are prioritised for front line, 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 is spending a massive €50,000 a DAY on taxi fares. More than 2,000 an hour over the past 5 years pic.twitter.com/0ssg83ltdF— Sean Defoe (@SeanDefoe) December 7, 2016
They went on to justify the spend - saying it made more commercial sense than having a fleet of HSE-owned cars.
"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."
The HSE spend on taxis fell by more than €3m between 2012 (€20m) and 2015 (€17m).
However if the final two months of this year stay consistent with the rest of 2016, that figure will have risen to €19m by the end of this month.
Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly says the spend needs to be justified by management.
And Dave Hughes, deputy general-Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), says much of the spend may be justified.