Plans unveiled for Munster flying doctor service

Plans to launch Ireland’s first doctor-led helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) by next spring have been unveiled.

Plans unveiled for Munster flying doctor service

John Kearney, the pioneer behind the ground-based Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) initiative established in West Cork in 2009, said the new Irish Community Air Ambulance (ICAA) service is the next step in improving response times and emergency medical care for acutely ill and injured people across Munster.

The proposed service, which will be based at Cork Airport, will serve a population of some one million people across the province and will mirror successful HEMS models which serve geographically challenging terrain and remote communities across Britain and elsewhere.

But the ICAA team needs to raise €1m to get it off the ground and up to €2m a year to keep it going. A major fundraising campaign is now under way while talks on other funding streams continue ahead of its target launch date in late 2017.

“This will be a service for Munster so we need the support of the people of Munster to donate, fundraise or volunteer,” Mr Kearney said.

“We need to raise €1m to take off and €2m every year thereafter, which is a huge ask, but in our view it is achievable.

“Communities in Cork have sustained our land-based rapid response doctors and now we’re calling on the people of Munster to support an air ambulance. Just €2 per person per year in our province will do it.”

Mr Kearney spearheaded the development of the ground-based ICRR in West Cork — a model which has been replicated in several locations across the country.

The five level-four clinicians and more than 100 GPs who volunteer in the scheme have saved countless lives and improved care over the last seven years.

Mr Kearney said it has been proven that early access to world-class critical care and pre-hospital emergency medicine, administered by trained, experienced and equipped medical personnel at the site of emergencies, can save lives. But he said: “People are dying unnecessarily due to the time it takes to receive critical care. This flying doctor service will offer a mobile intensive care unit by air which will allow us to safely transport patients faster to a major hospital, saving time and lives.

“It will be built on the already successful ICRR model and will offer gold-standard care, starting at the roadside and continuing while on route to definitive care in hospital.”

The service will be delivered using a twin-engine Eurocopter EC135 aircraft, which has a top speed of around 260kph and a range of up to 620km.

It will be configured to carry a stretcher, and will be staffed by a pilot, who will fly an expert in emergency medicine and an advanced paramedic to the scene of an emergency.

Mr Kearney said as is the case with the ground-based ICRR service, the flying doctor service will work with, and complement the State’s existing emergency services, and the Athlone-based Emergency Aeromedical Service which is operated by the National Ambulance Service in partnership with the Irish Air Corps.

There are plans for the aircraft to visit towns and cities across Munster over the coming months to boost fundraising.

You can donate online or pledge to host fundraising events at

You can also text the word “FLIGHT” to 50300 to donate €4.

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