Ireland’s first community air ambulance service to be active within weeks

Charity Irish Community Rapid Response €400,000 for air base in Co Cork

Helicopter from Ireland’s first  charity air ambulance service. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

Helicopter from Ireland’s first charity air ambulance service. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

 

The HSE has agreed a deal that will lead to the introduction of the State’s first community-funded air ambulance, based in County Cork.

The charity Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) said Friday that it expects the service to be up and running “within weeks”. ICRR raised €400,000 for the construction of an air base at Rathcoole, where the helicopter will be based, and plans to raise €2 million a year to cover the ongoing cost of leasing the aircraft, pilot’s wages and fuel.

Under the terms of a service-level agreement with the HSE the health service will provide the medical staff for the unit, which will be centrally dispatched according to need around the country by the ambulance service. It is anticipated that the aircraft will undertake up to 500 missions a year.

ICRR director John Kearney said that “the sooner this vital service is live, the sooner a life will be saved and grief will be spared”. He urged the Department of Health to confirm a specific starting date for the service and thanked the public for their support of the project.

Long-term support

“To keep this service in the air, we will be reliant on the public’s long-term support – and I am confident that this can be achieved.”

The air ambulance is expected to bring the population of a 10,000 square mile area within 20 minutes of critical medical care. It will assist in the airlift of seriously ill patients from remote and rural medical hubs, traumas sustained in road traffic and other accidents, as well as cardiac events, strokes and other medical emergencies.

Minister for Health Simon Harris welcomed the news, saying it would “complement the existing aeromedical services and improve aermedical access to the South of Ireland. ”

“Looking to the future, and adopting a whole system approach to care delivery, it is clear that the National Ambulance Service will be a key enabler of Sláintecare and, in that context, it is important that we support the development of aeromedical services which will improve service efficiency and effectiveness.”