‘Lives at risk’ as fund­ing cri­sis grounds air am­bu­lance

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Eoin English

A fund­ing cri­sis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the ground­ing of Ire­land’s first char­ity-funded air am­bu­lance.

Lives will now be at risk, the ser­vice op­er­a­tors warned last night when the plug is pulled on the ser­vice next Fri­day.

The heli­copter emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vice pro­vided a vi­tal med­i­cal ser­vice to over 500,000 peo­ple liv­ing in the south of Ire­land, re­spond­ing to car­diac ar­rests, strokes, farm­ing ac­ci­dents and road traf­fic col­li­sions.

Run by Ir­ish Com­mu­nity Rapid Re­sponse (ICRR) and staffed by Na­tional Am­bu­lance Ser­vice med­i­cal per­son­nel, the air­craft will be grounded from April 3.

The ser­vice has flown more than 351 mis­sions since its launch eight months ago from its base near Mill­street in North Cork. But it has been strug­gling in re­cent months to raise enough money to stay air­borne.

ICRR’s op­er­a­tions man­ager Ruth Bru­ton said the Covid-19 cri­sis has cut off all of its fundrais­ing av­enues.

Ms Bru­ton said mem­bers of the ICRR board are dis­traught at hav­ing to cease op­er­a­tions and with­draw this ser­vice dur­ing the cur­rent cri­sis. She said ICRR had al­ready im­ple­mented harsh cost-cut­ting mea­sures in an ef­fort to keep the ser­vice fly­ing, in­clud­ing re­duc­ing its hours of op­er­a­tion from seven days to five days a week, lay­ing off non-es­sen­tial staff and cut­ting the hours of cur­rent staff.

“Our sin­cere thanks to the peo­ple of Ire­land who sup­ported this ser­vice and kept it fly­ing for the last eight months, you have all been part of a com­mu­nity that has saved hun­dreds of lives and im­pacted many, many fam­i­lies,” she said.

“We could not have got­ten off the ground with­out ev­ery sin­gle per­son who do­nated money, gave their time to fundraise or share our mis­sion.”

She said as a last re­sort, ICRR sought in­terim sup­port from gov­ern­ment but it has yet to get a re­ply.

The air am­bu­lance has flown more than 351 mis­sions.

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