Lift-off of air ambulance imminent

AN air ambulance service to get medical emergencies to hospital from remote parts of the south-west could be operating later this year.

A charity group planning to provide the service hopes to begin talks with the Health Service Executive (HSE) shortly about setting up the service. Air Ambulance Ireland has signed a contract with Bond Air Services in Wales which would initially provide one helicopter and pilots, available during daylight hours from Monday to Friday.

The long-term plan is to have a number of helicopters available to the HSE ambulance service on a 24/7 basis if the initial scheme is approved and operates successfully.

Air Ambulance Ireland began its campaign to provide the service in 2007 from Tralee, Co Kerry, and it is expected that the first helicopter would be based in the south-west region.

The group’s chairman Pat McCarthy said the new contract with Bond Air Services and a number of key recent additions to its board have brought Air Ambulance Ireland a step closer to full operation. While informal discussions have previously taken place with the HSE, hopes are high that the first helicopter could be on call sometime this year.

“Ireland is the only country in the EU without a dedicated air ambulance service, all of which are funded voluntarily, with the exception of Scotland. The importance of a rapid response to life-threatening situations is well established.”

The charity would not charge the HSE for its services, expected to cost around €85,000 a month. It will rely on funds raised from recycling clothes and mobile phones, a lottery, local and national events and sponsorship.

At the publication of his report on reconfiguring acute hospital services for Cork and Kerry in June 2009, Professor John Higgins highlighted the importance of air ambulance provision, particularly for remote peninsulas around Bantry.



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