Published on November 25th, 2019 | by Mark Dwyer0
ICRR to Provide Back-Up Helicopter in the Midlands
Irish Community Rapid Response’s back-up helicopter is to provide assistance to the Irish Air Corps Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS), the country’s other Air Ambulance Service based in Athlone. Under the agreement, with the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS), ICRR will provide its back-up helicopter and a pilot four days per month for the next four months, to help address training requirements. ICRR’s Chief Operations Officer Lynda Stopford welcomed the opportunity to assist the Air Corps, and reassured communities in the South that this would not affect their new full-time service.
“The new emergency service and model in Cork is working very well and we are delighted to be able to provide our expertise to assist the Defence Forces. A separate agreement to provide this will be reached with the HSE.”
The ICRR Air Ambulance service is based near Millstreet and commenced operations at the end of July. It services the South of the country and is set to be tasked 200 times in its first four months, ahead of a target of 500 call outs annually.
Last year, the EAS in Athlone was involved in 159 responses to serious car crashes, 146 other medical emergencies and 15 urgent transports of children to hospital. Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO)’s general secretary Commandant Conor King told delegates and Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe at the group’s conference in September while the service has saved “countless lives” it is now “on the brink of collapse”.
In a statement to RTE News, the Department of Defence confirmed the air ambulance will not operate for 16 days between late November and February due to staffing and training issues.
“Notwithstanding the well-documented on-going HR challenges in the Air Corps, in particular the recruitment and retention of pilots, the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) has been delivered since 2012 without interruption.
“However, on foot of recent military advice, the Air Corps will not be in a position to accept EAS taskings by the national ambulance service for four days per month for a period of four months starting in November 2019 and ending in February 2020,” a Department of Defence spokesperson said.
“During those 16 days when the Air Corps are not accepting taskings, the Irish Coast Guard will provide reserve cover to the national ambulance service.
“This is line with the 2015 Government decision establishing the Emergency Aeromedical Service.
“The Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) charity Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) based in the south of the country will continue to be available and the potential for it to provide increased support is also being explored.
“The priority is to provide the best service possible using all available resources during the four-day periods each month when the Air Corps are not available for EAS taskings.
“This interruption is regrettable but necessary from a safety and governance perspective. The safety of serving personnel, HSE staff and patients is the shared number one priority and our whole focus is returning the EAS service to full capacity,” the spokesperson said.