Air Ambulance charity expands ground service, increases critical care cover

The charity service is now known as “CRITICAL”

by Gazette Reporter
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The Irish Community Air Ambulance has announced that it is changing its name to CRITICAL, and is stepping back from the provision of its Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) to focus on expanding its network of Volunteer Emergency Medical Responders into more communities across the country. 

The charity was established in 2009 as Irish Community Rapid Response, and in 2019 it successfully launched Ireland’s first and only charity Air Ambulance. Since then, it has been tasked to more than 1,500 serious incidents and emergencies. 

CRITICAL, the Emergency Medical Response charity, will continue to provide the HEMS Air Ambulance until February 28th, 2023 and will then pass the baton to the new state-funded HEMS service based in the South West.

Micheál Sheridan, CEO of CRITICAL said, “The Irish Community Air Ambulance was established by our charity in 2019 in response to what we knew was a need for a HEMS service in the south west of Ireland. We have consistently shown how vital the service is, so much so that it is now set to be fully funded by the state. We would like to thank all of those who helped keep HeliMed92 flying for the past three years and the HSE for its support over the last 10 months. We will now focus our efforts on our ground based Volunteer Emergency Medical Response initiative and bring Critical and Advanced levels of care to more communities across Ireland, both rural and urban.”

CRITICAL, the Emergency Medical Response charity, is working closely with the National Ambulance Service and has a number of Volunteer Emergency Medicine Doctors and Volunteer Emergency Medical Responders around the country. These volunteers are tasked by the National Ambulance Service to support the provision of pre-hospital emergency care to critically ill and injured patients in their local communities. 

The charity has a fleet of Rapid Response Vehicles which have facilitated Critical Care Doctors and experienced GPs to respond to more than 1,800 incidents since 2020 alone. Their teams are already on the ground in counties Mayo, Donegal and Dublin, with additional volunteer doctors set to join them in Kildare, Dublin, Wicklow and Waterford in the coming months. 

Their rapid response vehicles are kitted out with specialist medical equipment including defibrillators, chest compression systems and suction units as well as advanced medical and trauma kits. This allows the medics to perform complex –  often lifesaving –  medical procedures, wherever and whenever they’re called upon. 

Micheál Sheridan added, “We’re excited to focus on our network of volunteer critical and advanced care doctors. We have plans to expand this network and are already working with the National Ambulance Service in this regard. Our ground teams responded to more than 1,800 incidents over the last three years alone, working in partnership with the emergency services to give people the very best chance of survival when they find themselves seriously ill or injured. One in every four calls was to a cardiac arrest, often happening in rural and isolated areas far from hospitals. There are highly skilled and qualified people in every city, town and village in Ireland and our aim is to provide them with the vital equipment so they can respond to medical and trauma emergencies in their local communities.”

Robert Morton, Director of the National Ambulance Service said, “Since its establishment in 2019, the Irish Community Air Ambulance has clearly identified the need for a dedicated HEMS located in the South West of the country. I would like to thank the CEO, the Board, the staff and volunteers for their work and commitment during that time. Like many charities, Covid had an impact on its ability to fundraise, hence the HSE has helped to fund the operation of the ICAA helicopter since March 2022 and will now operate the HEMS in the South West on a long-term sustainable and publicly-funded basis. Again, we commend the work of everyone involved in demonstrating the need for this vital service.”

In 2022 the charity’s resources were tasked to a total of 1,000 calls. Road Traffic Collisions and Cardiac Arrests accounted for almost half of all incidents. 

The organisation fundraises to kit out its volunteers so they can continue their life saving work. It costs an average of €25,000 to establish an Advanced level Volunteer Doctor in the community; and €120,000 to put a new Critical Care response vehicle on the road. 

The charity will be launching a new website in the coming weeks, in the meantime visit communityairambulance.ie or its social media channels for updates. 

Featured Image: Dr Lisa Cunningham, Board Member; Micheál Sheridan, CEO; and Dr Jason Horan, Volunteer Emergency Medical Responder.

Photo: Michael Mc Laughlin

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