IRELAND’S first community air ambulance will shortly be propelling its way to Cork, after a contract signing at the weekend.
Baltimore man John Kearney, Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) chief executive, confirmed that a contract was signed with the UK-based Sloane Helicopters this week.
The service – the first of its kind in Ireland – will be up and running by August, from its Cork Airport base.
John was one of a group of people who launched a campaign in 2017 to highlight the vastness of the greater Munster area and the need for air ambulance cover.
He told The Southern Star: ‘This is a dream come true. As a service, it will save lives because it has quicker response times.’ The ICRR already has 200 voluntary doctors responding to medical emergencies on the ground, as well as ten Rapid Response vehicles.
‘Now,’ he said, ‘the ICRR is taking to the air to offer a service that will mirror successful models throughout the UK and continental Europe, where geographically challenging terrain warrants an air response.’
He said it is ‘vital’ to be able to provide medical care and swift transport within the ‘golden hour’ – when medical interventions have the greatest impact on saving lives.
John, who has worked with countless other volunteers on various emergency life-saving and recovery missions, including the Tit Bonhomme, said: ‘The ICRR Air Ambulance will, from Cork Airport – bring an area of 10,000 square miles within 20 minutes of critical care.’
The air ambulance is a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), which will be tasked through the 999/112 call system, operated by the National Ambulance Service at the National Emergency Operations Centre. It is being supported by the HSE and Department of Health.
The service will include medical crew who can provide life-saving treatment to those who are seriously ill or injured, along with rapid transport to a critical care facility.
It will complement existing emergency services, including the Athlone-based Emergency Aeromedical Service, operated by the National Ambulance Service and Irish Air Corps.
It is hoped that €2m will be raised per annum to fund the service. But John is confident that the public will back Ireland’s first ‘flying doctors’.