Government is not stepping in to save air ambulance

The government is not going to save the charity air ambulance, according to those who run it.
Government is not stepping in to save air ambulance

The government is not going to save the charity air ambulance, according to those who run it.

In a statement from the Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) charity, its chairperson John Finnegan says appeals to the State have failed.

It has, however, been given a six-weeks line of credit from UK-based helicopter provider Sloane Helicopters and its leasing partners, Millstone Aviat

While the service is tasked 999 jobs by the National Ambulance Service (NAS) and NAS paramedics are on board, all the other costs have to be met by the charity.

For example, it costs €350 for an hour of fuel and missions cost around €3,500.

It must now rely on any monies it has left as well as whatever it can raise through its continued online fundraising efforts.

“ICRR’s board had to make a decision two weeks ago to ground our Air Ambulance Helicopter on Friday April 3 after eight months of service due to the effects of Covid-19 pandemic in our community fundraising campaign,” Mr Finnegan said.

“This was (a) gut-wrenching decision for us to make, knowing the impact and lives saved by the service in that short time.

“We applied to the government for Interim funding for this vital frontline service to help us through this exceptional time we find ourselves in.

“It was apparent this week, even with all the political support that was provided by a number of cross-party politicians that were lobbied by concerned members of the public, no interim financial support is going to come from the Government.”

That neither the Department of Health or the HSE are prepared to fund the ambulance is a massive blow to the service.

When asked last week if it would bail the charity out ahead of Friday’s deadline, the HSE said: “The National Ambulance Service (NAS) cannot comment on any funding arrangements or issues that the charity may have.

“The National Ambulance Service will continue to provide medical staff and task coordination of the service as per our agreement with the charity.”

When asked if that meant there would be no money coming from the NAS, it added later: “You will need to refer this question to the Department of Health.”

The Department of Health said: “The charity-funded air ambulance service is underpinned by a service level agreement between the HSE/National Ambulance Service and ICRR. As such this query is more appropriately answered by the HSE.”

Air ambulance campaigner and Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae said: “The State appears to have washed its hands of this charity.

“Given how important it is to the remote rural communities of Cork and Kerry, this is yet another slap in the face from the ministers and officials in Dublin.

“They just don’t seem to care about this service. If they do, they have a very funny way of showing it.

“I asked Health Minister Simon Harris about funding for the service last Thursday in the Dail and he left before he would give an answer.

“I’m still waiting for his reply.

“I don’t see why they don’t divert the money ring-fenced for the Cork events centre to the air ambulance.”

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