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The announcement was made at government buildings this morning by the Ministers for Defence and Health, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar.
The National Ambulance Service (NAS) and the Air Corps have operated the service on a pilot basis since mid-2012 and have completed over 1,055 missions to date including 323 STEMI heart attack patients.
The permanent service will be based out of Athlone.
There will be an “on-going review” of the service, and the Minister for Health indicated in the future the HSE might lead the service.
“We need to constantly look at the best way to provide the service, and it is currently being provided by the Air Corp and that is being made permanent,” Minister Varadkar told journalists.
“But we don’t rule out in the future the possibility that we may need a second helicopter for example. Or that potentially that the service maybe provided directly by the HSE, but for the foreseeable future it will be provided by the Defence Forces.”
In terms of hospital facilities, the Minister said that this will also be reviewed in the future.
“Galway is the main destination for the helicopter at the moment,” said Minister Varadkar. “In some cases they can land on the roof, in others it is necessary to have a landing site nearby.
“It is something that will obviously have to be factored in for future planning for hospitals”
Minister Coveney also said that it “maybe appropriate at sometime in the future for this to be a civilian service rather than a military one.”
The service is targeted mainly at western counties. We asked the Department of Health whether the service is expected to be expanded to other areas of the country.
“The Emergency Aeromedical Support Service (EAS) is a dedicated resource to support the National Ambulance Service,” said the spokesperson.
“Its primary objective is to transfer very seriously ill or injured patients from the scene of an incident to the nearest appropriate hospital, where the land transport time may not be clinically advisable.
“The EAS focusses on those areas where the road network or distance to an appropriate facility may prevent timely treatment. The Irish Coastguard provides capacity at times or places where the EAS is unable to.”