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This compared to 396 in 2015 and 353 in 2014. Until the end of February this year, there had been 40 completed tasks.
The EAS service is operated by the Air Corps, with the National Ambulance Service (NAS), out of Custume Barracks, Athlone. Reserve capacity is provided by the Irish Coast Guard.
Last year, there was 835 “requested tasks” for the EAS, 123 of which could not be completed because of weather.
“It should be noted that there are many factors which influence whether an EAS tasking is completed,” a Department of Defence spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI).
“The aircraft can be stood-down before launch or when airborne for reasons such as the patient is deceased, the patient condition is not as critical as initially assessed, there is excessive distance involved and the ambulance crew decided to go by road, etc.”
Separately, Dr Keith Swanick, a GP in Belmullet, Co Mayo, and Fianna Fáil’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health and Mental Health, told MI that he believes the Irish Coast Guard should be designated as a stand-alone primary response agency. He said the Government should introduce legislation in this area.
“I think we have a two-tier emergency response system, just like the way we have a two-tier health system,” he said.
Dr Swanick was speaking to MI last week from the Co Mayo site of the continuing search operation for the remaining crew members of Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport told MI that any change in the legislation surrounding the Coast Guard remained unlikely.
“The Minister has publicly advised on a number of occasions that neither he nor the Department plan to bring forward any legislative proposals at this time,” said the spokesperson.
See feature, page 14