independent

Tuesday 12 December 2017

General public will suffer too – ambulance crew member RNLI stays silent over proposals

A MEMBER of Wexford's ambulance service said that the general public, not just fishermen, will suffer when the Coast Guard helicopter service is scaled back to just 12 hours a day.

'From our perspective – and the hospital's – they provide an invaluable service,' the member said this week. 'It would be a sad loss for Co Wexford and the south east if that was to be taken away at night – for fishermen and for the general public.'

The ambulance service member pointed out that, during the snow at the turn of the year, a critically ill infant was transferred to hospital in Dublin on the Waterford-based helicopter.

He also pointed to many recent occasions where the helicopter was called into to transfer patients to hospital from areas of Co Wexford, including parts of Blackwater and Gorey, considered inaccessible or risky for an ambulance due to the terrain.

The ambulance man said that the helicopter always provide a speedy service and pointed out that the winch man and winch operator are trained paramedics. DESPITE WORKING in close co-ordination with the Irish Coastguard helicopter services, the RNLI have refused to comment on threats to reduce the south east service.

The emergency response service say its 'premature' for the RNLI to take a view on the proposals of the Department of Transport.

In a statement released on Tuesday the RNLI said they would not comment while the Department of Transport were engaged in a tender process to contract out the helicopter service from 2012.

'It is for the Department to evaluate the level of search and rescue helicopter cover that should be provided and no doubt they will take careful account of all the relevant factors,' a statement issued on Tuesday said.

The statement added that the helicopter cover provided throughout Ireland by the Irish Coast Guard is invaluable.

The RNLI works very closely with the Irish Coastguard with whom we have an excellent relationship. The annual helicopter liaison meeting for Ireland and the UK, hosted in RNLI HQ in Poole will take place in the early summer and is routinely attended by the Irish Coast Guard. It is likely that any proposed change in operating procedures or cover will be discussed in this forum,' the statement said.

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