The National Ambulance Service says it is disappointing that it was asked to help bail out the Cork-based community air ambulance service and says it simply does not have the funds to support it.
The Irish Community Rapid Response had looked for a cash injection of €400,000 from the service to cover its deficit for 2019.
It said it couldn’t help and had previously been assured the project was sustainable and self-funding.
In correspondence obtained under freedom of information, National Ambulance service director Martin Dunne wrote it had never said it would be able to fund the operational requirements of the Irish Community Rapid Response: “As such [we] are neither funded nor have funding available to support this initiative in the manner requested.”
He said the Irish Community Rapid Response appeared to be partly laying fault with the service for its deficit.
In its letter, the air ambulance service said a major restriction had been its inability to publicise individual missions due to GDPR concerns patient confidentiality.
Chairman John Finnegan said this made fundraising difficult and it needed to be able to give more detail of the “lifesaving” service it was providing.
Mr Finnegan said that it had also attracted some negativity from local media and members of the community because it had to fundraise: “[They] feel that residents in the south of Ireland are being discriminated against as they must pay for a life-saving service that is provided free to residents in Midlands/ west of Ireland.”
Mr Dunne said the Irish Community Rapid Response had known all the terms and conditions when it signed up to provide the service: “It should also be noted that in relation to the main reasons that this deficit occurred appears in the main levied at the National Ambulance Service which in the main does not reflect the partnership approach which you alluded to.
“The Irish Community Rapid Response signed with full agreement and knowledge the service level agreement in relation to this initiative,” he said.
The service will continue to operate until mid-May and is still seeking fundraising and corporate partners in the hope of continuing.
A HSE spokeswoman said it had been given assurances that the charitable model was sustainable and that the Irish Community Rapid Response “had a number of benefactors who would support [them] for the first few years while the service evolved”.