It may be more associated with the Australian Outback but the idea of doctors flying to remote spots to save lives may be about to become a reality for the people of Munster thanks to a new community initiative due to be launched in Cork.
The Irish Community Air Ambulance services hopes to get off the ground next April thanks to a fundraising drive aimed at raising more than €1 million to cover start-up costs and it plans to mirror similar successful models of medical care operating across the UK.
Co-founder John Kearney explained that a similar service has been operating in Wales, Scotland and England for more than a decade and a similar operation has recently begun in Northern Ireland and all have proven highly successful in terms of saving lives.
"We see the service as being complementary to the Emergency Aeromedical Service operated by the National Ambulance Service in partnership with the Irish Air Corps which is based in Athlone and our focus will be on the southwest and the southeast," he explained.
“We will operate from a base at Cork Airport and we estimate we will be able to get to anywhere in Munster and over as far as Rosslare within 30 minutes – the only difference between us and the Athlone service is that they are paramedic led while we will be doctor led.”
Mr Kearney has been involved for the past three years in running the Irish Community Rapid Response service which transports volunteer doctors to the scenes of crashes and other accidents and he said the new air service marks a further advance on that operation.
“The Rapid Response service was set up in 2009 and uses volunteer doctors for pre-hospital emergencies and there are currently five Level 4 clinicians and over 100 GPs with the Rapid Response service who have saved countless lives and improved care in its seven years.
“The launch of a community air ambulance service is the next step, bringing better response times with permanent on-duty doctors who will have the ability to bring advanced skills to acutely ill and injured people throughout its catchment area.”
‘Mobile intensive care unit’
The service with helicopter and doctors based full-time at Cork Airport will effectively offer “a mobile intensive care unit by air which will allow us to safely transport patients faster to a major hospital, saving times and lives,” said Mr Kearney.
The air ambulance will travel to every town in Munster over the next six months in a bid to raise the necessary funding and while the group needs €1 million to get started and €2 million each year thereafter to operate, Mr Kearney believes such targets are entirely achievable.
“In Wales they operate four helicopters for three million people who raise £9 million (€10.4m) annually to run the service – communities in Cork have sustained our land-based Rapid Response doctors and we believe that €2 per person per year from the people of Munster will fund our new air ambulance.”
For further information, visit www.communityairambulance.ie