The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter, have announced the launch of a 12 month pilot project which will see the Air Corps provide dedicated aeromedical support to the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS).
The pilot Emergency Aeromedical Service, which will have a particular focus on the West of Ireland, will begin on Monday, June 4, from Custume Barracks, Athlone. The Air Corps are providing an EC135 helicopter and personnel to fly and maintain the craft. The National Ambulance Service will be responsible for patient care, which will be provided by National Ambulance Service Advanced Paramedics.
The Ministers said that the pilot service will allow the HSE to determine the extent and type of dedicated aeromedical support needed for the emergency ambulance service in the region in the longer term.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Reilly mentioned the relatively short time frame involved in establishing the pilot programme.
Speaking of his officials, the HSE staff and their counterparts in Defence and the Air Corps, he said “I am delighted to see the results of all that hard work and co-operation, along with all the planning and training at operational level that has brought us to this point.
“It is very satisfying to see such an ambitious project come to fruition in such a short time. The initiative is expected to be of invaluable assistance to the National Ambulance Service and will be of real benefit to patient safety.”
Minister Shatter also paid tribute to the cooperation between the various officials when he said “The announcement of this pilot service to operate out of Athlone is a real example of how otherwise disparate State agencies can maximise existing resources to improve public services”.
Both Ministers agreed that the pilot service will be a useful indicator for the future need for the service.
Minister Reilly said “The pilot will give us the information to see what type of service will best support the people and the Ambulance Service in the region and how we can, realistically, improve response and transit times for seriously ill people, thus improving outcomes for seriously ill people”.
Local Fine Gael Deputy, Frank Feighan welcomed the new service noting that he had “strongly lobbied for some time to ensure that this service will be in place”.
“This service will operate 7 days a week in daylight hours and have the capacity to respond quickly to emergencies where patients needing rapid access to acute services in larger hospitals will be transported quickly to receive the appropriate medical care,” he added.
“Apart from the capacity to respond swiftly to emergencies, the air ambulance has a number of other clear benefits.
“It is an efficient use of existing State resources, in terms of aircraft and paramedic training; the service has few flying restrictions and seven day availability and the Air Corps has already successfully supplied aeromedical support to the HSE and has the necessary equipment,” concluded Deputy Feighan.