In all, 12 emergency personnel including paramedics and advanced paramedics are participating in a pilot project, volunteering with the renowned voluntary community emergency response service headed by medical director Dr Jason van der Velde.
The pilot project, which went into operation over the Christmas period and has so far responded to eight incidents, will be reviewed next June to ensure it is working effectively.
“This is a new initiative enabling other emergency service personnel to voluntarily respond in their free time,” said Dr van der Velde, a pre-hospital, emergency medicine and critical care retrieval physician, based at Cork University Hospital.
The new volunteers, who between them cover a sprawling area from Belgooly to Bantry, have each been equipped by the charity with a €6,000 medical kit, which Dr van der Velde describes as a “robust patient monitoring and defibrillation system”.
Each volunteer operates within a 10-mile radius of his or her own home.
“This means that we have voluntary emergency cover across a substantial geographical spread,” he said.
The new support network has already responded to all eight emergencies independent of the existing WCRR emergency vehicle routinely manned by Dr van der Velde.
“Each member received the kit because we see this as a self-sustaining project,” He said. “We are currently stepping up our fundraising activities to cover the cost of the kit and to pay for the expansion of the project if our evaluation next June shows that the system is working as well as expected.”
Dr van der Velde said the new development was a “logical expansion” of the service already provided by West Cork Rapid Response. “Essentially this system enables professionals who are free and who are able to respond to a bad incident in the vicinity of their homes.
“By providing them with the life-saving equipment they would normally have available to them in the course of their work, we are enabling them to do this.”
The new volunteer network, he observed, was the latest stage in the development of the charity set up in 2009, whose ethos has enabled existing emergency service personnel to support communities on a voluntary basis. The service has its own special response vehicle and works in partnership with the HSE’s National Ambulance Service in the region, parts of which are more than 190km from Cork City.