Minister urged to approve new community air ambulance

Minister urged to approve new community air ambulance

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The ICRR air ambulance landing at St Flannan’s College in Ennis last year – Photo: © Pat Flynn 2018

Ireland’s first charity-funded community air ambulance is appealing for the service to be approved to go live.

The group behind the Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) air ambulance has said “getting the service into operation is imperative, as delays could cost lives.”

While the life-saving service remains ready to go live, the charity is awaiting a formal announcement from the Minister for Health.

However, Minister Simon Harris has yet to receive a recommendation of approval for the service from the HSE’s National Ambulance Service (NAS).

The charity has urged the announcement of a formal start date for the life-saving service confirming that, in the meantime, the charity is currently incurring staff payroll costs while awaiting the service going live.

ICRR is already delivering professional pre-hospital care directly to the site of emergencies throughout Ireland. The charity has been working hard to provide Ireland’s first dedicated community helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) and making it available as an asset available to the National Ambulance Service (NAS) to respond to serious trauma and medical emergencies if required.

Irish Community Rapid Response Air Ambulance visits Ennis.

Irish Community Rapid Response Air Ambulance visits Ennis. #GoPro

Posted by Emergency Services – Clare, Ireland on Friday, October 5, 2018

The charity’s Augusta 109E helicopter is based at Rathcool Aerodrome, Millstreet in Cork and has visited dozens of location across the country meeting members of the statutory and voluntary emergency services. The service has also acquired a fire truck to meet fire safety requirements at the aerodrome.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “It is understood that there has been extensive engagement between the ICRR and the NAS in relation to a proposed service arrangement. However, the Minister has not, as yet, received any recommendation for the approval of this service development.

It should be noted that before the NAS can recommend a service arrangement to the Minister for approval, it will need to be fully satisfied that all necessary clinical and corporate governance arrangements are such that the new service will be safe, robust and sustainable.”

The ICRR has said it is satisfied that the requirements and specifications, which the charity has been tasked with, are in place.

“ICRR’s responsibility is to provide and fund the air base, the pilots, engineers and ground staff. The HSE NAS is providing the paramedical staff and integrating the service with the other emergency health services. The Department of Health is providing policy and service oversight,” a spokesman said.

The charity has said: “In the past year ICRR has spent in excess of €50,000 on paramedic training, which was delivered last year together with the HSE NAS. €400,000 has been invested in the Air Ambulance base facilities. The charity is currently incurring staff payroll costs while awaiting the service going live.”

“ICRR is grateful to the public for its ongoing over-whelming support for the service and urges the announcement of an imminent start date. Existing Air Ambulance Services have been proven to save lives both in Ireland and abroad and this is why getting the service into operation is imperative, as delays could cost lives,” the charity added.

The ICRR air ambulance visited St Flannan’s College in Ennis last October.

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Chief Reporter Pat Flynn has worked as a journalist for almost 30 years. His career began during the late 1980s when, like many aspiring radio presenters of the time, he worked for local pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick. Pat joined Clare FM in 1990 where he worked as researcher initially and later presented several different programmes including the station's flagship current affairs programme. He was also the station's News Editor and Deputy Controller of Programmes. Despite leaving in 2003 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist, he continues to work with the station to this day. As well as being the Clare Herald’s Chief Reporter Pat is also freelance journalist and broadcaster, contributing to Ireland’s national newspapers and is a regular contributor to national broadcasters.

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