THE Air Corps has been called in to transport patients stranded by the extreme weather at least four times in the past 72 hours, with mothers and new-born babies amongst its client list.
Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea issued a statement yesterday advising all local authorities that the Defence Forces were on standby to assist with dealing with the severe conditions if required.
But the Air Corps is on hand to conduct air ambulance operations throughout the year, with an increased number of requests this week as patients are unable to move by road.
All the requests for ambulances have been from the south of the country, and were completed using the Air Corps Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter which is fitted with specialist medical suites called 'lifepods' for just such an eventuality.
The first operation was completed on Monday night, with the pilots flying using night-vision goggles for the entire flight, another completed Tuesday afternoon and two more completed yesterday morning.
"The Air Corps has an AW139 helicopter and crew on standby 24 hours a day for air ambulance," a Defence Forces spokesman said.
Among the services covered by the Air Corps air ambulance are the transport of organ retrieval teams to Ireland and the inter-hospital transfer of patients with spinal or other serious injuries.
Last year, the Air Corps conducted 78 air ambulance operations.