Families forced to relocate to UK due to shortage of air ambulances for transplants
Parents of children who need organ transplants are being forced to relocate to the United Kingdom due to a shortage of air ambulances to bring them to hospital in time when an organ becomes available.
Ireland does not have the capacity to carry out paediatric liver and heart transplants and young patients are treated in the UK under the Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS).
However, due to staff shortages the Air Corps is now providing a limited air ambulance service.
For paediatric heart patients, the window to get to hospital, when a donor becomes available, is four hours. For liver patients it is six hours.
Families who fear they might not make it to hospital in time have made the decision to relocate.
One worried parent, who asked not to be named, said: "It's very concerning for any parent, especially when you already have a sick child which is very stressful."
The Children's Liver Disease Ireland charity has written a letter to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin (OLCHC) and the Department of Heath raising concern.
A spokeswoman for the Children's Hospital Group said that measures were being taken to "support" families who chose to relocate.
Earlier this year the HSE confirmed that the need for an Irish transplant unit for child cardiac patients was under review.
The HSE introduced a travel policy scheme for the TAS where "the economic air or sea fares of the patient and, in the case of a child, the child and one accompanying adult" are reimbursed.
In 2016, 14 children were referred abroad for heart transplants.