ALMOST half a million euro has been spent so far on an air ambulance service based in Cork which has not yet taken to the skies on a rescue because the health minister has not signed off on it.
The air ambulance project, operated by Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR), has been ready to operate since the start of the year with a new base, trained staff and helicopter in place.
However, Minister for Health Simon Harris has failed to sign off on the project as yet, meaning it cannot operate.
The ICRR revealed that €400,000 has been invested in the air ambulance base facilities and that more than €50,000 has been spent on paramedic training for the service.
The charity added that it is currently incurring staff payroll costs while the service is grounded waiting to go live.
“The decision on when the Air Ambulance Service, located in Cork, will go live rests with the Minister of Health,” said a spokesperson for the service.
“ICRR is grateful to the public for its ongoing overwhelming support for the service and urges the announcement of an imminent start date.
“Existing a ir ambulance services have been proven to save lives both in Ireland and abroad and this is why getting the service into operation is imperative, as delays could cost lives,” he added.
Cork County Council has written to Minister Harris to ask why delays have occurred in signing off on the service.
Their letter comes after Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) raised the issue at County Hall. “We need to know why Minister Harris is yet to sign off on the project which will offer a huge service to areas like West Cork,” he said.
“It’s a life-saving service.”
Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan (FF) has questioned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the issue.
“Everything has been in place and ready to go since January of this year, yet four months on and we’re still waiting for the minister to give the go-ahead for Air Ambulance South,” he said.
“Frustration is growing, paramedics have undergone specific training, equipment is in place and the helicopter itself is in situ at the air base and service ready.
“People are wondering what the hold up is,” he added.
“This is Ireland’s first privately funded and much-needed air ambulance service.
“While I appreciate the need for the Government to be fully satisfied that the necessary clinical and corporate governance arrangements are in place I would ask that they treat this matter with more urgency than they have shown to date.”