A new helicopter emergency service for Munster is due to come into operation in the coming weeks, the Department of Health has confirmed.
The new aeromedical service will be launched shortly following the signing of a service level agreement between the HSE and Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR).
It is expected to respond to up to 500 calls per year, and bring the population of a 10,000 square mile area within 20 minutes of critical medical care.
According to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, the service will be ‘safe, robust and sustainable'.
"The service will see the establishment of a charitably funded helicopter emergency medical service in the South, which will operate from Rathcoole Aerodrome, just northeast of Millstreet, county Cork. The service will complement the existing aeromedical services and improve aeromedical access to the south of Ireland," Minster Harris said.
The news was welcomed by ICRR, which said it is looking forward to working with the Department of Health and the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) to deliver ‘a world-class service which will save lives'.
"I warmly welcome that this project finally has approval to get airborne. The sooner this vital service is live, the sooner a life will be saved and grief will be spared. The department has said that it will commence ‘within weeks'. ICRR urges that a definite start date now be announced. For its part, ICRR is fully ready to commence," commented ICRR director, John Kearney.
He pointed out that ICRR is a charity and in the contract with the HSE, it has committed to fundraising €2 million annually to pay for the helicopter, the pilots, the airbase at Rathcoole, Millstreet in Cork and the fuel.
"That is why this is a ‘community' air ambulance. To keep this service in the air, we will be reliant on the public's long-term support and I am confident that this can be achieved," Mr Kearney said.
The medical staff will be provided by the HSE NAS and calls to the service will be taken via 999/112. While the service is based in Munster, it will also be available for missions nationwide.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.