Funding crisis due to Covid-19 forces grounding of Ireland’s first charity-funded air ambulance


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 frontline 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 over 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.

She said members of the ICRR board are distraught at having to cease operations and withdraw this service during the current crisis at a time when Ireland’s frontline health and medical service needs support more than ever before.

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 8 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.

    Useful information

  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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