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'We're saving lives several times a week': Cork air ambulance risks being grounded after funding shortfall

Irish Community Rapid Response requires in the region of €400,000 to continue operating the air ambulance.

A file photo of the ICRR air ambulance.
A file photo of the ICRR air ambulance.
Image: ICRR

A CHARITY-RUN AIR ambulance service in Cork is appealing for the public’s help after a funding shortfall of €400,000, operators have said.

This has lead to concerns it could temporarily grounded within two weeks.

The Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) air ambulance is a charity-funded service that is operated in conjunction with the National Ambulance Service.

It receives no government funding, although this is in line with similar successful models that operate in the United Kingdom.

ICRR estimates that 600 missions could be flown in 2020, but this is now in doubt.

The service has been ‘busier than initially anticipated’, ICRR pilot John Murray told Patricia Messinger on C103′s Cork Today Show:

The air ambulance itself is funded through charity – that would be the aircraft pilot’s insurance and fuel. The whole operation is run in collaboration with the National Ambulance Service, who provide the medical staff on board in the form of a paramedic and an EMT, as well as the medical consumables.

The medical staff are also trained as technical crew members, assisting in navigation. 

Additional costs include the upkeep of the helicopter and air base facilities.

The funding is needed before the end of the month, or else the service may not be able to operate, according to the ICRR

“We’re copying a very successful model that has been in existence in the UK for many years,” Murray explained, “where all of the air ambulance services in England and Wales are totally charity funded. There are 19 charities running [similar aircraft] in England and Wales, so there’s approximately one helicopter for every 1.7 million people, and that’s the level that we are pitching ourselves at as well.

They’re all amply funded. We would anticipate that there is enough goodwill in the community to support us in a similar manner.

Murray added that the government has been approached in an attempt to cover the shortfall in funding require for the service, which costs in the region of €1.5 million a year to operate, but the charity is awaiting a response.

He emphasised that the agreement always was that the aviation side of the operation would  be funded via charitable donations.

Murray said the service has saved lives “several times a week” already. The service differs to search and rescue operations, as it is focused on getting paramedics to the scene of an accident as fast as possible.

ICRR Air Ambulance 001 The ICRR air ambulance at the scene of an incident. Source: ICRR

ICRR said  the service has been used 250 times since it was launched, assisting more than 200 patients.

The charity also has a network of more than 200 volunteer doctors, as well as a fleet of ten rapid response vehicles which work as part of the National Ambulance Service system.

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Nicky Ryan

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