Ireland’s Emergency Aeromedical Service struggles amidst recruitment crisis

helicopter pilot in cockpit

The Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) based in Athlone, Ireland, is struggling to continue operations, as the drop in pilot numbers has prevented the Defence Forces from being able to staff the service properly

Dara Calleary, Deputy Leader of Irish republican party Fianna Fáil, said that people who live in remote areas depend on the service. He damned recent reports of a lieutenant colonel and senior management being forced to fly the service in lieu of any other staff, and after the recent Representative Association of Commissioned Officers conference revealed that the Defence Forces can no longer sustain the service, Calleary demanded that the government act fast to address the recruitment crisis in the industry.

Calleary reported that the EAS provided 848 hours of flight time in 2016, but that this number fell drastically in 2017 to 581 hours. “It [EAS] was introduced to supplement the traditional road-based ambulance service. A lot of these people who live in remote areas are more involved in road traffic accidents than in urban areas. We know that the ambulance service generally is under inordinate pressure at the moment and ambulance response times are way out of what they’re supposed to be.”

Communications Minister Richard Bruton responded to Calleary’s concerns by assuring him that the government was ‘committed to the air ambulance service’: “We are also committed to improving and expanding the number of paramedic training places and the paramedic numbers to support the growing demand that is calling our ambulance services. There is no doubt that one of the areas where there has been difficulty in retaining staff within the Defence Forces is in the air corps, and as you also know the recent Pay Commission has recommended that there would be a pilot retention scheme put in place. We now have the basis for moving forward to tackle the issue of the difficulty of retention in the air corps.”