Air ambulance company unable to fly transplant patients at night
Published 17/08/2011 | 05:00
THE private company responsible for bringing emergency transplant patients overseas cannot fly from its base at night.
The Irish Independent has learned that Aeromedevac, the air-ambulance company commissioned by Crumlin Hospital for when state aircraft are unavailable, can only take off from Weston Airport in Leixlip, Co Kildare, during daylight.
The company was contracted by the hospital following the botched transportation of Leitrim teenager Meadhbh McGivern (14) on July 2.
Meadhbh, who is the longest-waiting paediatric patient on the Irish liver-transplant list, missed her chance of a new liver when the authorities in charge of her transportation failed to organise a flight to get her to London on time.
Crumlin Hospital has now taken on the role of co-ordinating all road and air travel -- including the booking of private air ambulances -- for children travelling to King's College Hospital in London for transplants when state aircraft are unavailable.
This role was previously carried out by a Dublin-based company called Emergency Medical Support Services (EMSS), which withdrew from the contract after publicity surrounding the mix-up.
However, Weston Airport, where Aeromedevac is based, is not licensed to operate at night.
Aeromedevac Ireland was launched in March by Dr Tony Walsh and Dr David Walsh, both of the Sims Fertility Clinic in Dundrum, Co Dublin.
The company's chief executive Keith Trower, told the Irish Independent that if the company is given adequate time it can relocate the air ambulance to Dublin Airport, in which case it could transfer at night.
"We can fly out of Weston close to 10pm in summer months, but obviously the winter will have an impact on the time we can depart," he said.
"If we get a call soon enough, we can move the aircraft from Weston to Dublin Airport. We operate the aircraft to optimise our availability.
"We are having meetings with Crumlin next week to discuss standard operating procedures, so if we do get a call and we are available to do it, everyone knows exactly what to do."
The company is in talks with the Dublin Airport Authority and Baldonnel but it is unable to guarantee a 24-hour service.
Meadhbh's father Joe has also commissioned the company as a back-up if all else fails in the event of his daughter getting another call indicating that a liver is available.
Mr Trower said the restriction of operating hours at Weston had "always been made clear to everyone involved".
However, Mr McGivern said he only learned yesterday that there were flight restrictions.
"This is more bureaucratic red tape and I wonder does the HSE know what an emergency actually means any more?"
He added: "If an emergency call comes in past 9pm, then this company is not much use."
Crumlin Hospital did not respond to queries yesterday.