Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (376)

Peter Burke


376. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Health the status of the proposed extension of the flying hours for the air ambulance based in Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29244/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for a Partnership Government committed to a feasibility study on the expansion of the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS), which also included a possible extension to night time flying. 

My Department engaged with the Department of Defence on the feasibility of extending the EAS to night time hours; however, it was concluded that night time flying carries additional risks.  All the risks associated with landing and departures are magnified at night including low visibility and crew fatigue.  There are also restrictions on helicopters landing at night time in Ireland, and landings can only take place on either a lit helipad or at an airport.  These restrictions would significantly reduce the number of emergency incidents that the service could respond to, and in fact, it is possible that most night-time calls would, in view of the risks involved, be better served by a land vehicle. 

The Deputy may wish to note that the HSE/ National Ambulance Service has recently agreed a Service Level Agreement with the Irish Community Rapid Response for a charitably funded Helicopter Emergency Medical Service in the South.   It is anticipated that service provision will commence later this month.