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Ireland's first charity-funded community air ambulance still awaiting approval to operate

The charity is awaiting a formal announcement from the Minister for Health.
Apr 24th 2019, 1:59 PM 16,768 51

IRELAND’S FIRST CHARITY-funded community air ambulance is appealing for the service to be approved to go live, as it awaits ministerial approval. 

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 NAS to respond to serious trauma and medical emergencies if required.

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 overwhelming 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.

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Pat Flynn

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