Saturday 15 December 2018

Mallow-Charleville Red Cross do 150 call-outs during white-out

Local crews had the highest number of call outs in the country

Maria Herlihy

The 40-plus volunteers who worked day and night at the Mallow Charleville Branch of the Irish Red Cross played a huge role in the 150 call outs tasked to it within the Cork area, resulting in almost 3,000 volunteer hours of duty during the recent storm.

This voluntary effort was the greatest in the history of Mallow Charleville Red Cross with the most significant volume of call outs and taskings for one individual branch and unit within the entire country.  

David O'Sullivan, chairman of Mallow Charleville Red Cross, told The Corkman that their local volunteers were placed on alert and standby from Tuesday, February 27 onwards. They worked continuously, day and night, until the night of Sunday, March 4, when they completed their final tasking and when weather conditions had improved. 

The peak of the call outs took place throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday when the volunteers, who worked on a rota system, tended to the most arduous of tasks in treacherous weather and driving conditions. 

 The 'Severe Weather Desk' for North Cork is based at New Road in Mallow, where the Mallow Charleville Red Cross Branch is located and this was the point of contact for taskings by the Health Service Executive (HSE), An Garda Siochana and Cork County Council. Mr O'Sullivan explained at one stage all five of their ambulances were fully operational and luckily they also have three specialist 4 x 4 ambulance vehicles which were operational and fully tasked 24 hours a day during Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  

To highlight just some of the work the local Red Cross volunteers did - they took dialysis and oncology patients to CUH for their appointments and treatment - day and night;  they collected nurses from rural regions of North Cork and brought them to work in CUH, the Mercy Hospital and the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital they collected doctors in Cork and brought them to work in Mallow; they transferred HSE National Ambulance Service Paramedics and Advanced Paramedics to and from their HSE ambulance bases throughout Cork; they transported Public Health Nurses to new born babies, palliative care patients, the elderly and the sick throughout local communities within North Cork. 

They also took home carers to those who are most vulnerable and living alone at home.  They also rolled up their sleeves and pitched in and helped with emergency call outs and worked in conjunction with the HSE National Ambulance Service.  

Mr O'Sullivan said: "Our volunteers did tremendous work during the recent severe weather. 

"They completed multiple taskings - particularly on behalf of the HSE - for hospitals, their community services, public health nursing, the National Ambulance Services. Our local Red Cross members completed all of this work to ensure that our State services, such as our health service, could continue to function in such exceptional circumstances."     

Heaping praise on all the volunteers who worked as a unit and gave it their all, he said it must always be remembered that these people are volunteers.

"They give of their time, their skills and their empathy freely and without question. It is these volunteers who are the backbone of our organisation. They are the very men and women who go out in such conditions and emergencies to help those people and organisations who need our help," said Mr O'Sullivan. 

"This is where all of our local fundraising, such as our church gate collections and flag days, and other fundraising  money goes. It allows us to respond in times of emergency and crisis, with the specialist vehicles and equipment we have managed to pay for through our fundraising efforts." 

One feat that epitomised the work of all the local Mallow Charleville Red Cross members was a tasking undertaken by volunteer Micheal O'Callaghan, EFR. Michael is an accountant and crunches the numbers by day  but when the bad weather hit he donned his Red Cross uniform and crunched the snow when he went to work with nurse Mary Carey of Ballyclough.

Mary, who works as a manager in St. Joseph's Foundation in Charleville, finished her work and also put on her Red Cross uniform and joined Micheal on a critical night tasking. The base in Mallow received a call to come to the aid of a very ill elderly gentleman in Newmarket. 

Micheal and Mary made heroic efforts to get to this man, travelling six miles up a mountain road in dense snow and ice conditions, where two tractors had earlier in the day failed to climb, in an effort to get the man  to hospital in the height of the storm. 

Mary and Micheal, who was driving the specialist 4 x 4 ambulance, eventually got to the gentleman's home but with the ferocity of the weather and the extremely difficult conditions, the 4 x 4 ambulance had to be dug out to get them all back down the mountain and on the road to hospital in Mallow. The journey to hospital, which normally should have been no more than an hour's journey, subsequently took over six hours to complete late into the night.  

Mr O'Sullivan, in acknowledging this emergency tasking, said that "it was an example of what each and every one of the volunteers in Mallow Charleville Red Cross did throughout last week`s weather event. I am immensely proud of them as friends, colleagues, professionals and Mallow Charleville Red Cross members and volunteers."