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Air Ambulance in plea for State aid

January 17th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Chief executive of the Air Ambulance Micheál Sheridan is critical of the way government funding is allocated. (Photo: Brian Lougheed)

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THE Irish Community Air Ambulance is calling for government support to help cover the €2.1m cost of running the service this year, after it was tasked to 512 missions in 14 counties during 2021.

Last year was the busiest year since the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) Air Ambulance launched in July 2019, with a total of 490 taskings in 2020.

The organisation is Ireland’s only charity-funded air ambulance. It works in partnership with the National Ambulance Service and responds to serious incidents and medical emergencies from its base near Mallow. Each helicopter mission costs an average of €3,500, all of which has to be raised or donated.

Irish Community Air Ambulance chief executive Micheál Sheridan said that they engaged with the government and regional political leaders throughout 2021 to secure some State support for the vital service.

But he was critical of how government funding is being allocated, saying the HSE had released funds to private ambulance firms to provide support during the pandemic, ‘yet the Irish Community Air Ambulance is still entirely funded by public donations’.

He added: ‘The increased number of taskings during 2021 shows that we provide a vital service. The cost to run the charity during 2022 is expected to be €2.1m, which is a significant amount of money to raise. We are so grateful to all our supporters who help us to bring hope to those in emergency situations, but we will continue to engage with the government to provide funding during these uncertain times.’

Cardiac arrests accounted for one in five calls, with 103 taskings last year – that’s up from 81 during 2020. There were 89 road traffic collisions, 64 farming incidents, 64 cardiovascular (heart attacks and strokes), 63 general trauma calls, 61 general medical calls, 48 calls from heights and 20 equestrian incidents.

Cork, Kerry and Tipperary accounted for the majority of taskings.

Diarmuid O’Donovan from Cork was seriously injured when he was thrown over the handlebars of his bike while cycling around Slea Head in Kerry last May. He said he needed to be brought to a dedicated trauma centre quickly.

‘A moment of carelessness saw me hit the road. I was on my own but, thankfully, it wasn’t long before I was found. Paramedics, a local doctor, the local fire service and gardaí all responded. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and it quickly emerged that I needed to be at Cork University Hospital as soon as possible. I wasn’t in a suitable state for a two-and-a-half-hour journey by road so the Irish Community Air Ambulance was tasked and landed in Ventry.

‘The journey to CUH by helicopter took just 30 minutes. I had 28 different bone breaks, including my spine, shoulder and ribs, as well as a punctured lung. I underwent several procedures that evening and spent 12 days in hospital. I believe it could have been far worse if I had not been transported to CUH so quickly and that my recovery has been much faster as a result.’

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