The grounding of Ireland’s first charity air ambulance service due to the Covid-19 pandemic halting fundraising activities will cost lives, an executive with the service has warned.
Ruth Bruton, operations manager with the Irish Community Rapid Response Air Ambulance Service, said it had taken the decision to ground the service indefinitely from April 3rd with deep regret.
Ms Bruton said that the service, which is staffed by National Ambulance Service personnel, had flown more than 350 missions since it began operations last September.
“We are very upset that lives will be lost due to the grounding of this service at this time, especially given how vital frontline medical support is during the Covid-19 pandemic and how successful the service has been to date,” she said.
Ms Bruton said the service had already made cost-cutting measures including the laying off of non-essential staff, cutting staff hours and introducing a five-day operational week to try to keep operating.
She said restrictions on gatherings in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus had led to “all fundraising avenues being extinguished”.
The service, based in Rathcoole, Co Cork, sought interim support from the Government but said it was yet to receive a reply from the authorities.
Ms Bruton said keeping the service operational was vital for two million residents of Munster and south Leinster as “cardiac arrests, strokes, farming accidents and road traffic collisions still occur amid the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The service has previously said each of its missions costs an average of €3,500. The National Ambulance Service covers the wages of medical personnel as well as the cost of medical equipment and medical consumables with the service covering the flight-related costs.