Following the news that Ireland’s first community air ambulance will be launching as a paramedic-led service, 22 HEMS doctors from all over the world have signed an open letter which expresses concern over the safety of the service.
The service is due to begin operation next month, but announced last week that it would be led by an advanced paramedic and an emergency medical technician – a decision that has been met with concern by the international air ambulance community. Experts from the US, Canada, Australia and more signed a five-page letter which objected to the model, stating that the decision ‘is not up to the standard expected of a HEMS and will not be able to provide advanced pre-hospital medical and trauma care to the critically ill and injured patients it is tasked to’.
The letter said of a doctor-led service: “This model brings the ER resuscitation room and intensive care unit to the patient. Recently the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a benchmark guideline entitled, 'Major trauma: assessment and initial management'. The life and limb-saving pre-hospital interventions listed in this guideline cannot be provided outside of a physician-staffed model in Ireland.”
The Irish Department of Health has responded to the letter, stating that ‘any new air ambulance service will operate as an extension of the existing Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS)’.
"The EAS, based in Athlone, has been successfully operating for many years in partnership with the Irish Air Corps with the crewing model of an advanced paramedic and an emergency medical technician,” it added.
The Department of Health claimed that 92 per cent of patients’ needs were met within the Advanced Paramedic scope of practice.
When the decision was announced, the service said it was due to a shortage of doctors. John Kearney, CEO of Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR), has rejected the criticism, stating that the charity has 200 doctors working alongside them in a voluntary capacity and that the acquisition of an air ambulance will be a boost for the service.