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Dr Marianne Hennigan arriving in Dublin Airport this morning. ICInitiative
home to help

Three Irish medics arrive home to answer Ireland's call with help of fundraising campaign

The Ireland’s Call Initiative has raised just over €19,000 on GoFundMe.

AN ONLINE FUNDRAISING campaign to bring Irish medical professionals home to join the frontline fight against Covid-19 welcomed its first three arrivals today.

The Ireland’s Call Initiative (ICI), a group of businesses and individuals supporting the HSE’s Be On Call campaign, is aiming to bring home over 100 Irish medical professionals from all over the world. 

Campaign organiser Neil Sands told that another six medical professionals are due to land at Dublin Airport later today, with a further 20 medics expected home by the end of next week. 

Sands says ICI is receiving new requests for assistance “by the hour” from Irish medical professionals around the world who genuinely need financial or logistical assistance to get home. 

Over 60,000 people registered for the HSE’s recruitment drive aimed at helping the health service cope with the outbreak of Covid-19 within a week of launching last month. 

Working with the Department of Foreign Affairs, airlines and travel agents, ICI is creating pathways to source and fund flights for medics abroad.

The campaign is providing medics with accommodation to self-isolate in for 14 days upon their arrival. Sands says it has already assisted some 100 healthcare workers to secure accommodation. 

EUqjLWZUMAEynTe Dr Marianne Hennigan on her journey home. ICI / Twitter ICI / Twitter / Twitter

For Dr Marianne Hennigan, one of the three medics who arrived today, getting home from Auckland proved difficult.

The 31-year-old Dubliner, who had previously worked in Australia for almost three years, was in New Zealand when her initial flight home was cancelled at the last minute.

Due to high demand and the difficulty of departing a country during a lockdown, Hennigan’s attempts to rebook were unsuccessful. ICI said it reached out to Dr Hennigan and helped to get her back on Irish soil after becoming aware of her plight on social media. 

“Getting out of New Zealand looked like it wasn’t going to happen and I was starting to think that I was going to be stuck there for the foreseeable future but Ireland’s Call reached out and looked after everything, they have been amazing,” Dr Hennigan said. 

“I am really grateful to them for getting me home and am looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible.”

Hennigan will now be self-isolating for two weeks in accommodation provided by ICI, before taking up a role in a Dublin hospital.

ICI says it has also sourced housing near Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway for healthcare workers flying home to work in these locations.

Funding for the campaign started with a “six-figure seed fund” from Irish and Irish-American donors from the private sector. ICI is now raising money with the help of some private donors and a GoFundMe page which has raised over €19,000 in the last 5 days.

Businessman Neil Sands said he started the campaign with the idea that it could be “a unifying force”.

Even though people are at home, they can still pull on the green jersey and get involved by donating towards getting these healthcare workers home to answer Ireland’s Call.

“These people want to return home to Ireland in its hour of need and we should do everything we can to support that. It’s really our chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with our front line,” said Sands. 

Sands says before flights are booked for medical staff,  ICI checks that they are qualified to work in the national healthcare system, that the flights are ready, and everything is paid for in a traceable and transparent process.

“The impact we have is beyond the purchase of flights,” Sands said. “It’s to do with getting people home and isolating them and making sure that they’re ready for the front line. Versus being a travel agent, which is equally challenging, but isn’t our only focus.”

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