Air ambulance: Surprising that 'vital service is facing a difficulty'

Air ambulance: Surprising that 'vital service is facing a difficulty'

A mother whose toddler son was saved by air ambulance crew said she had never thought about the service until she needed it.

The woman, who is from west Cork and gave an anonymous interview to RTÉ Radio 1 today, is now urging people to support the charity’s urgent cash drive.

The mother-of-four was talking as concern grows over the future of the Irish Community Rapid Response charity air ambulance.

As the Irish Examiner revealed today, Simon Harris has told the HSE to save the service. In doing so, he gave the first indication that the State may bail the charity out since the ICRR warned last December that it will ground the service if it doesn’t get a large injection of cash.

Although the National Ambulance Service (NAS) provides medical staff and coordinates the taskings, the charity needs €2 million-a-year to fund the helicopters, pilots, fuel and its airbase.

A tweet it pinned to its Twitter account yesterday states that it has “raised over €700,000 through donations, benefactors and public fundraising campaigns”.

But it says its needs another €400,000 to keep flying. Whether or not that is the final funding call for the year or not is unclear given the charity says it costs €2 million-a-year to run.

The charity has repeated its warning that if it doesn’t get €400,000, it will ground the service.

Given it had only raised €11,683 via its GoFundMe page and received a total of €13,131 in donations directly to the charity by 5pm yesterday, this is likely to happen.

The Irish Examiner revealed that the Service Level Agreement the charity signed with the NAS states that if ICRR runs out of cash, the HSE will not be “liable”.

The woman interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Sean O’Rourke said: “Our son, who is very young, had taken ill suddenly and unexpectedly. In the blink of an eye we were faced with a medical emergency. He was with a family friend who had the presence of mind to act immediately.”

She said the response from the various emergency services was “phenomenal” as their son had a “prolonged seizure they couldn’t control”. But, she added, “they were able to perform an intervention that brought him round”.

She said the air ambulance “played a vital link” in saving her son’s life: “How swiftly were they able to get him to Cork. We live an hour away by road on a good day if there is no traffic. And he was in Cork in 12 minutes. He’s absolutely fantastic and fully recovered."

She added: “Having had first-hand experience, I suppose up until that point, it’s not something that would have been on my mind, to be honest.

“But now because we have experienced it first-hand, and we have seen how vital a link it is, it surprises me that such a vital service is facing a difficulty like this.”

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