First community air ambulance on the way

Will operate from Cork later in summer
  • Deborah Condon

Ireland's first community air ambulance is expected to begin operating from Cork in August, it has been announced.

The ambulance is a helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) and it will include medical crew who can provide life-saving treatment to people who are seriously ill or injured, as well as rapid transport to a critical care facility.

It will be operated by Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR), a charity dedicated to pre-hospital care. ICRR has signed a contract with UK-based Sloane Helicopters and the helicopter is due in Ireland at the end of July.

It will be based at Cork Airport and will allow for a 10,000 square mile area to be brought within 20 minutes of critical care.

Medical care and fast transport within the ‘golden hour' significantly increases the chance of survival. The golden hour is the time in which medical interventions have the greatest impact on saving the life of someone who is injured or critically ill.

According to ICRR chief executive, John Kearney, this development will see the charity's successful land service move to the next level.

"Since 2008, ICRR has developed a network of over 200 volunteer doctors throughout Ireland who can be called on to deliver critical medical interventions, which prevent serious injury or death.

"We have 10 rapid response vehicles (RRVs) in operation to deliver a ‘land' emergency service, but the ICRR is now taking to the air. The air ambulance service will mirror successful models across the UK and continental Europe, where geographically challenging terrain warrants an air response," he explained.

Mr Kearney noted that this service will complement existing emergency services, including the Athlone-based Emergency Aeromedical Service operated by the National Ambulance Service and Irish Air Corps.

"It is hoped that €2million can be raised per annum to fund the service. The people of Ireland have sustained our land-based rapid response volunteer doctors over 10 years and now we're calling on the public to support this new life saving air service," he said.

The community air ambulance service is expected to respond to up to 500 calls per year. Some of the serious incidents it is expected to respond to include:
-Retrieval and transfer: The airlift of seriously ill patients from remote and rural medical hubs/ accident scenes to appropriate specialist hospital care
-Trauma: Injuries sustained in, for example, road traffic, agricultural, industrial and sporting accidents
-Medical: Including cardiac events, stroke and anaphylaxis.

For more information on the ICRR, click here


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