Coast Guard crews gain paramedic status 14 months ahead of schedule


IRISH COAST Guard helicopter crews have been upgraded to full air ambulance or paramedic status some 14 months ahead of schedule.

The move, which was confirmed yesterday by Minister for Transport Pat Carey, will ensure that all air-sea and inland rescue flights have at least one trained paramedic on board.

Paramedic status is several stages up from first aid, allowing trained ambulance or air ambulance crews to give injections, administer cardiac and advanced airway management, and treat asthmatics, diabetics and people in anaphylactic shock.

Up to now, the Coast Guard’s four helicopter bases at Shannon, Cork, Sligo and Dublin had been run at emergency medical technician level.

Lead Irish Coast Guard paramedic Daithí Ó Cearbhalláin said it had been a long-term ambition to ensure that casualties could be treated to the highest level on scene or en route to hospital.

The Irish Coast Guard undertakes about 500 missions annually, off the coastline and in mountainous and remote areas inland. Crews are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Last July, former minister for transport Noel Dempsey signed a €500 million contract to lease a new generation of Sikorsky S-92 helicopters for the Irish Coast Guard from July 2012 to 2022, with an option to extend to 2025 on a year-by-year basis.

Mr Carey paid tribute to the quality of service provided by the Irish Coast Guard crews, and said that “the introduction of new technology and the improved paramedic level of care will see quite a significant improvement in capabilities”.