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HSE to take over running of air ambulance after rebrand

February 26th, 2023 10:05 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

HSE to take over running of air ambulance after rebrand Image
At the launch of Critical were board member Dr Lisa Cunningham with ceo Micheál Sheridan and responder Dr Jason Horan. (Photo: Michael McLaughlin)

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THE ‘flying medic’ service provided by the Irish Community Air Ambulance is to be run by the HSE from next month, while the charity which ran the service up to now is being rebranded as ‘Critical’.

In 2019, the country’s first and only charity air ambulance was launched from Rathcoole near Millstreet in North Cork. It will now shift its focus and expand the network of ground-based volunteer emergency medical responders across the country.

Speaking to The Southern Star, Critical chief executive Micheál Sheridan said that while there is change for the charity, it will continue with much of the work it has been doing since its launch. Fundraising will continue to remain a central part of supporting the service.

‘One of the first projects we got involved in was volunteer doctors on the ground, and we would have always had similar services around the country. We’ve maintained these and our intention is to continue that service and build it out,’ said Micheál.

He said the flying medic service’s popularity has shown there was a need for it. ‘We’ve been tasked about 1,500 times since then. Now the government is stepping in and will be funding the service.’

Micheál pointed out that it is the ‘best possible outcome’ for the region, and that the charity felt that government funding was always needed for such a vital service.

‘They will now be working with a different operator, Gulf Medical, who will be providing the aircraft for them to operate and it will continue to have ambulance service staff on board,’ he said. 

‘The fact that the government has stepped in means they realise the importance of the service and will be committed to it in the long term.’

Critical will continue to provide the helicopter emergency medical service (hems) until February 28th and will then pass the baton to the new State-funded  service.

‘We are very ambitious about our future and in fact our doctors on the ground were tasked more than the helicopter. We can have multiple numbers of doctors responding to emergencies around the country, which is our ambition.’

And he thanked all of those who helped keep HeliMed92 flying for the past three years and the HSE for its support over the last 10 months.

The charity will be moving to a new home in the coming months and their commitment is to have volunteer responders in communities around the country.

‘Our fundraising targets for this year are €1.7m. It would cost about €120,000 to put a brand new critical care response vehicle on the road and we have three of those new vehicles coming on stream in April.’ 

He said it costs an average of €25,000 to establish an advanced level volunteer doctor.

The charity will be launching a new website in the coming weeks outlining the changes.

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