Service Level Agreement has been signed between the HSE and Irish Community Rapid Response for the launch of a new aeromedical service.

The concept of the Air Ambulance is certainly not a new one, in fact you can easily trace it back to the First World War. British forces in Turkey used a biplane to transport a wounded soldier to a medical facility for treatment. The flight required 45 minutes to complete, and saved the patient an arduous overland journey of three days’ duration. Then of course you had the inception of the Flying Doctors in the vast Australian outback. The rest as they say is quite literally history. 

Ireland is considered small (only the 23rd largest in Europe). However it has one of the highest proportions of people living in rural areas among EU states.

Some 42 per cent of Irish people live in rural areas compared to an EU average of 27 per cent. Add that to the often overlooked fact that we are an island nation, access to rapid emergency medical care is no easy feat. 

For some time now, and only recently made official, the men and women of the Irish Air Corps have operated an Emergency Aeromedical Service in conjunction with the NAS. This consists of an Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter, strategically based in Custume Barracks, Athlone. But of course that’s only one Air Ambulance for the whole country. Naturally, they are often supplemented by Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky S92 rescue helicopters operated by CHC and based in Sligo, Waterford, Dublin and Shannon. 

So, here in Cork, the largest county in Ireland, we have to rely heavily on assets from other areas… until now.

On Friday 14 June 2019, Minister for Health Simon Harris officially announced a service-level agreement with the Irish Community Rapid Response for a Community Air Ambulance Service. After almost three years of uncertainty, Ireland has its very first Charity Air Ambulance service. 

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 17.22.37
Estimated response area and time.

The Agusta AW109E helicopter will be based in Rathcoole Aerodrome, Co. Cork and will bring the population of a 25,000 sq km area within a twenty minute reach of critical medical care.                                                                                                                                                                             

The Air Ambulance is expected to respond up to 500 calls per year. It will be tasked through the National Ambulance Service 999 / 112 call system and is supported by the HSE. 

It is estimated that the service will cost about €2m per year and rely heavily on charitable donations. 

To find out more or to donate, visit

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