Charity-funded air ambulance still waiting to be used despite being ready for four months

Charity-funded air ambulance still waiting to be used despite being ready for four months

Minister for Health Simon Harris is being asked why an air ambulance service is still grounded since last January despite being ready to launch.

Cork County Council is to write to Mr Harris after the Irish Examiner highlighted that the country's first charity-funded air ambulance has been sitting in a hangar in Millstreet waiting for ministerial approval to go into service. Councillors say lives could be lost in the interim and want an explanation for the hold-up.

Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) used hundreds of thousands of euro donated by the public to lease a helicopter, develop an airbase, and train medical and support staff to run the service.

Cllr Paul Hayes sought support from colleagues when he told a meeting in County Hall it is unacceptable that such a vital service is still not operational: "I want this council to write to the Minister for Health, asking what specifically are the impediments to allowing the Irish Community Rapid Response Air Ambulance service to begin operation."

Cllr Hayes pointed out that from its base in Millstreet the helicopter could be in Dingle in 22 minutes and Waterford in 45 minutes.

He said: "The service aims to provide fast access by highly-trained personnel. It will save lives."

The county council has been very supportive of ICRR and those behind it received a Mayor's Award for their endeavours.

Cllr Declan Hurley said the case for a rapid transit emergency helicopter has been proven over and over again.

"It will save lives. It's a shocking indictment that the minister hasn't moved on this already. We want to see this activated as soon as possible before more lives are lost."

Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy described it as a critical service and said he would immediately write on behalf of the local authority to Mr Harris expressing the urgency of the situation.

Deputy Michael Moynihan, who represents the largely rural Cork North West constituency, also questioned the delay.

He said it would be able to serve a population of a 15,000 square kilometre area within 20 minutes: "That can only be beneficial to the people living in remote and rural parts of Cork."

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