The founder of Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR), John Kearney, said the €446,000 funding announced by the Government — the largest single funding allocation it has ever received — will help the pioneering first-responder charity save more lives in rural Ireland.
“People are dying unnecessarily due to the time it takes to receive critical care,” Mr Kearney said.
“There are currently five clinicians in rapid response vehicles and over 100 GPs with the rapid response service who have saved countless lives over the years.
“This funding announcement is the next step in equipping more volunteer GPs with the necessary equipment to attend life-threatening trauma and cardiac events in their local communities.
“And it is also formal recognition of the work we have been doing for the last several years. We are delighted.”
ICRR, which was established in 2009 in the wake of a tragedy in West Cork, uses volunteer doctors to respond in specially equipped jeeps to scenes of emergencies.
Dispatched by the National Ambulance Service via the 999/112 emergency call system, the GPs, backed by a network of emergency medicine consultants, effectively bring emergency room treatment to the scenes of critical care incidents.
They provide advanced life-support, stabilisation and care at the scene, and work with ambulance paramedics to help acutely ill and injured people.
Working in conjunction with the Department of Emergency Medicine at University College Dublin, ICRR has some 115 volunteer GPs enlisted in its programme in mostly rural areas — including bases in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Limerick, Meath, Dublin and Wicklow.
But Mr Kearney said thanks to this funding allocation, he hopes to boost that number to 230 by the end of the year, buy modern equipment, including the most up-to-date defibrillators, and increase the number of ICRR GP responder locations.
The charity is now well on its way to achieving its target of having 500 GPs signed up for voluntary service by 2020.
The funding was announced over the weekend by Minister of State for Regional Economic Development, Michael Ring, under the Clár programme.
Clár is a targeted investment programme that aims to provide funding for small infrastructural projects in rural areas that experiencing significant depopulation.
The funding stream is designed to support the sustainable development of identified Clár areas by attracting people to live and work there.
But this is the first time the Clár programme has allocated funding to first responder organisations.
Mr Ring said he was delighted to provide the support to a group which provides an excellent service in rural areas, very often under very difficult circumstances.
Mr Kearney thanked the minister and his department for this “visionary support” for the life-saving service.
ICRR is also planning to launch Ireland’s first doctor-led air ambulance soon.