Air ambulance service finally gets off the ground

Ireland’s first charity-funded air ambulance has finally gone live as a dedicated asset of the National Ambulance Service (NAS).

Air ambulance service finally gets off the ground

Ireland’s first charity-funded air ambulance has finally gone live as a dedicated asset of the National Ambulance Service (NAS).

The Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), which is based at Rathcoole Aerodrome near Millstreet in Co Cork, was called into action just hours later but was stood down on route, before refuelling at Cork Airport and returning to base.

The paramedic-led HEMS, which is expected to respond to up to 500 calls a year, now brings the population of a 10,000 square mile area within 20-minutes of critical medical care.

Its launch was finally confirmed by Health Minister Simon Harris.

“The service will significantly improve access to aeromedical services for people living in the south of the country and will complement our very successful Emergency Aeromedical Service which operates in conjunction with the Irish Air Corps,” he said.

The service, he said, is part of the long-term whole-system approach to healthcare which seeks to ensure that the right care is delivered by the right person, in the right place, at the right time - a fundamental objective of Sláintecare - and it will also deliver on the recommendation of the National Trauma Steering Group to improve aeromedical services.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank the Irish Community Rapid Response for their commitment to establish this service and for their ongoing work with local communities to raise funds to maintain service delivery,” he said.

“I would also like to thank the NAS for the very significant work which was undertaken to get this service to the commencement stage. I look forward to visiting the base in Rathcoole in the next few weeks to officially launch this service.”

The new HEMS will be delivered by the HSE NAS in partnership with the ICRR. It will cost some €2m a year to keep it flying.

The charity will fund the aviation service while the government, through the HSE, will provide the clinical staff - an advanced paramedic and an emergency medical technician - and the medical equipment and materials.

An additional €250,000 has been made available to the NAS to fund the provision of the aircraft's medical crew.

The AW109 aircraft will operate during daylight hours only, seven days a week.

The flight-time from its base to Cork Airport is about 10-minutes, it’s about 14-minutes to Bantry, about 22-minutes to Dingle and about 25-minutes to Waterford.

It will respond to trauma incidents, including road traffic accidents, equestrian, agricultural, industrial or sporting incidents; to medical incidents including cardiac events and strokes; and it will be able to airlift patients from remote or rural areas to major hospitals for specialist treatment.

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