Ireland's first charity-led air ambulance has been tasked with 56 missions in its first month of service.
The new air ambulance, which has just been officially launched, is expected to perform 500 life-saving missions every year.
Based in Cork, the service is being led by Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR), which is a charity that delivers professional pre-hospital A&E care directly to the site of emergencies nationwide.
The service is being delivered with the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) and the Department of Health, however it will largely be funded by public donations.
Known as the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), it went live on July 30th and by August 30th, it had already been tasked with 56 missions. On its busiest day during the month, it was called out five times.
"This project involves ICRR and the HSE's National Ambulance Service coming together to save lives and serve the public good. I strongly commend this partnership approach and the State is fully committed to it. It will assist in saving lives by delivering rapid care to patients," commented the Tanaiste, Simon Coveney, at the official launch.
Meanwhile, according to ICRR founder and volunteer, John Kearney, the air ambulance's first month "has shown with no doubt the real need for this service".
"Its use has exceeded expectations. It has been very rewarding to see it become a reality for people and families at their most critical hour of need. I am certain that lives have already been saved and that so many more will be.
"I want to acknowledge the essential contribution of our partners in the HSE National Ambulance Service and Department of Health. However, this is a community-based charity-led service and it will need to raise €2 million annually from the public to remain operational," he explained.
Mr Kearney said that the ICRR will shortly be launching a major fundraising drive and will be calling on members of the public, communities and companies to support it.
As part of the partnership that has been agreed, the charity is funding the cost of the helicopter, the pilots, the fuel and the airbase in Cork. The NAS is resourcing the medical staffing and coordinating all the tasking of the craft through its aeromedical desk in Tallaght, Dublin.
The air ambulance brings the population of a 10,000 square mile area within 20 minutes of critical medical care. However, the ICRR emphasised that while the service is based in Cork, it will be available for missions around the country and it will work in tandem with the existing Athlone-based Emergency Aeromedical Service.
For more information on the ICRR, click here.