Press Release by the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD & the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, TD announcing the Launch of the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS)

21 May 2012

The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr Alan Shatter TD, have today, Monday 21st May 2012, 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 4 June, 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 “Today’s 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".

Mister Shatter spoke of the Air Corps involvement when he said While there is an existing agreement already in place providing for inter-hospital helicopter transfer, I believe that the Air Corps’ involvement in this pilot service will help for the HSE to determine the level of need that exists amongst sections of the population, primarily in the west of Ireland, who require rapid transfer to an appropriate facility within a limited timeframe”.

Background

The Eurocopter EC-135 helicopter is classified as a light utility, performance Class 1 helicopter and is the appropriate platform for air ambulance given its size and weight. It also has a very low noise signature so is widely used in built up areas. In addition to this it can be primed for a quick start-up to get airborne immediately for time critical missions.

For this reason it is the most widely used air ambulance helicopter operating in this role in a number of countries worldwide.