THE first day of operations of the Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) group’s new helicopter emergency service was marred by a row with Cork Airport over an €80 landing fee.
A contract to secure the helicopter and relocate it from the UK to Ireland was signed in June 2018, but the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, didn’t sign off on it until June of this year.
The service, which is being funded through charitable donations collected by the ICRR, has already cost €400,000 for it base costs at Rathcoole in North Cork, plus €50,000 to train the medical personnel.
The first mission for the helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) took place last Tuesday (July 30th) in Cork, which meant a stop at Cork Airport to refuel.
HEMS operations manager Ruth Bruton said it was her understanding that the charitable service would be exempt from the €80 landing fee.
She said: ‘We are hoping the airport will waive these fees. We are a charity and any time we can save money helps towards the cost of paying for fuel and our base costs. And any saving we can make will help us to fly further.’
Ms Bruton added: ‘We are nevertheless delighted with the soft launch of the ICRR air ambulance. We can confirm that it was tasked on Tuesday and that we had a successful first run.’
Minister for Health Simon Harris described the service as ‘very valuable’ and said it would help ensure that seriously ill or injured people in remote areas would have more timely access to high-quality clinical care.
The service will provide cover for Munster region, but also serves as back-up for the medically-dedicated helicopter service, Rescue 112, which is based in Athlone.
Fundraising for the charity is ongoing, because it is dependent on charitable donations for its very survival.
A spokesperson for Cork Airport said: ‘Unfortunately, ICRR did not contact Cork Airport in advance, therefore there was no protocol in place for the landing of the air ambulance. Cork Airport actively supports local charities and is arranging a meeting with ICRR to confirm and agree operating protocols for the future.’