Charity air ambulance may end in two weeks

January 13th, 2020 1:15 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Paramedics and other emergency team members pictured transferring a patient to the Air Ambulance helicopter at the East End car park in Ballydehob on New Year's Day for a flight to Cork University Hospital.(Photo: Pat Mantle)

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IRELAND’S new charity air ambulance service could be grounded in just two weeks’ time, unless it gets immediate support.

The Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) Air Ambulance confirmed to The Southern Star that it needs an immediate cash injection of €400,000 to cover outstanding bills and keep the service going.

Failure to raise that amount could, according to the ICRR operations manager Ruth Bruton, mean that the life-saving service could be grounded before the end of the month.

The service made a very public and urgent appeal to the public for funds before Christmas.

‘We must fundraise for the provision of the helicopters, pilots, air base facilities, insurance, firefighting and other operational needs,’ Ruth Bruton said.

The service is run in partnership by the ICRR charity and the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS), which provides the medical crew.

The ambulance service tasks the helicopter service through the 112 and 999 calls to its National Emergency Operations Centre. However, the helicopter, pilots, air-base insurance and fuel are 100% funded through donations to the ICRR.

It has flown more than 250 times in its first five months of service, since it went live on July 30th.

However, it has become a victim of its own success because with the increased number of missions, comes increased costs.

Ruth Bruton explained: ‘We’ve flown an additional 17 missions per month, on average, which means increased costs. These missions have been in both challenging, rural locations and in towns and cities right across the country, but they have helped in excess of 200 patients, their families and their communities.’

If the service gets the support it needs, Ruth said, there could be over 600 missions flown in 2020, but without immediate funding the service is in jeopardy.

People can donate through the ICRR website, or through its Go Fund Me ‘Keep the ICRR Air Ambulance Flying’, which currently stands at €18,000.

Junior Health Minister Jim Daly said he was aware of the challenges and the request for funding was being looked at with urgency.

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