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Blood Bikers zoom in to help patients in the West

The bikers work as an emergency rider voluntary service that transports blood, patient records and other urgently-needed items between hospitals in the Western region.

Minister James Reilly with the Blood Bikers
Minister James Reilly with the Blood Bikers

A DEDICATED GROUP  of bikers have joined forces to smash stereotypes and help out hospital patients.

The volunteer charitable organisation of 17 ‘Blood Bikers’ was started by Mike Carty, who was inspired after watching a TV programme about blood bikers in the UK. These emergency riders bring items to hospitals, without charging for their services.

The voluntary service was officially launched in Galway six weeks ago and has the backing of Bluebird Care, which bought the two bikes that are used by the group, and Carole Nash, which helped to create a bespoke insurance policy for them.

They transport urgently needed blood, blood products, patient records, drugs and other medical requirements between hospitals and blood transfusion banks, primarily but not exclusively in the Western Region.

Currently, their services are offered to any HSE or private hospital or clinic in the Western Region, on an out-of-hours basis from 7pm to 7am Monday to Thursday and from 7pm on Fridays to 7am on Mondays, with a complete 24 hour service over the weekend and on Bank Holidays.

Carty said in some cases a taxi can cost the HSE between €300 – 400 for a trip to send a CD or test tube of blood to a hospital.

By providing this service we are allowing a massive saving to hospitals in terms of couriers fees, taxi fares and tying up ambulances.

Volunteers

The volunteers receive advanced training through RoSPA and undergo regular reviews of their skills. The emergency response vehicles are fully kitted out and specially adapted to carry the products, while all personnel are Garda vetted and carry official identity cards whilst on duty.

Carty told TheJournal.ie that they were helped in setting up the group by blood bikers in England. “Most people who ride motorbikes just want an excuse to ride motorbikes,” he said – so why not “combine that with doing a bit of good”?

“The hospital in Galway has a regular pick up going to Dublin every day at 3pm,” said Carty.

If someone presents after 3pm and they have urgent blood samples, they won’t get picked up again until the next day, and that can be a 24 hour delay in diagnosis. We can go in there at 7pm in the evening and have the bloods at 9pm. We’ll often have them there before the 3pm pick-up gets there.

He said that at first the hospitals were a bit sceptical – “why are those people doing it for free?” – but now are delighted to use their service. The group has enough funding to keep them going for three months, and will hold a fundraising event once a month. They hope to bump up the number of volunteers to between 20 and 30 riders.

Carty said that they are “very select with who we let on”, and that the very tight internal controls ensure that riders have to be trained to silver or gold level, and are tested by a police motorbike trainer. They also have to be over 30 and have a full clean licence for more than two years.

The bikes have a blue light they can use, but they have to  comply with the Road Traffic Act. They have been averaging one call a week since the launch and with plans to start blood biker groups in Dublin, Cork, Donegal, and Limerick, an Irish Association of Blood Bikers has been set up.

They deal with Roscommon, Ballinasloe and two hospitals in Galway, and will begin to deal with Castlebar in early 2013. Find out more on their official website.

Read: HSE spends around €10,000 on appointment texts>

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