Minister for Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs officially launches WCRR

Press Release

The official launch of West Cork Rapid Response doctor service by Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs took place in the Westlodge Hotel, Bantry on Friday 20th November, 2009.

To briefly outline the history and story of WCRR ….just under two years ago a group of us got together having experienced delays in getting medical treatment for family and friends following accidents and illnesses in all different parts of West Cork. Living as we do in a somewhat rural part of the country all of us were only too aware of the delays in getting to hospital and getting vital medical help and we decided that we would like to do something about it if we could at all. Initially we met in January 2008 in the Westlodge Hotel, Bantry – different people from all different backgrounds and experience and formed a group that we called the West Cork Air Ambulance Service. Originally our vision and aim was to start an Air Ambulance Service to the isolated parts of West Cork including the off shore islands. However following discussion and research we could see ourselves becoming even more isolated from the services we already had and decided in the short term to change our aim to that of complementing the emergency services we already had and didn’t want to lose. We learned of the importance of that “Golden Hour” following an accident or trauma and how important it is to get medical treatment in the sixty minutes following injury. In certain situations that Golden Hour can make all the difference between someone living and dying. Our aim was to complement if possible the services we already had in the area bringing a doctor to the scene of an accident or illness with the minimum of delay and getting that person to hospital as soon as was humanely possible.

Following from our second meeting we were lucky enough to be joined by Dr. Jason van der Velde, a doctor working and living in West Cork at that time and some other GPs who expressed an interest in helping us to try and achieve our aim and get our service up and running off the ground.

Eventually following discussion and debate we decided on a land-based unit capable of stabilising patients before transport and assisting the ambulance crews, whom we have always acknowledged provide a vital professional service to all the people in West Cork. We looked at who could provide this service and we all agreed that local doctors would be the key to this. We approached several GP’s locally and I must say overall we got mixed responses. But undaunted we were able to lean on a few willing individuals to get the operation going.

Before we could go any further we then had several meetings with A+E doctors and staff of Cork University Hospital to try and put ideas together and come up with a model we could try to move forward with. We learned of a service similar to the one we wanted to try and emulate which has been running in East Cork for a number of years run by Dr. Hugh Doran and his late father before him all on a voluntary basis.

Following several meetings with Dr. Stephen Cusack and his team in Cork we identified finally that we needed a 4 x 4 vehicle fully equipped with a defibrillator, ventilator, and life saving equipment, some of these things the committee had never even heard of before but we were quick learners! So we applied for funding and started collecting money locally. The best news we received was from Minister Ó Cuív’s department for the Clár programme to learn of our application having been approved for funding. So we purchased a vehicle and went about fitting it out with the necessary equipment and kit.

There was some correspondence with the Ambulance Service and after a formal meeting we got the ‘green light’ to go ahead and launch our service. So we have been operating in a limited capacity since mid-March of this year and in our first 6 months operations we have saved the lives of 11 people in West Cork… 3 of them children.

That’s 2 lives saved every month…

Let me give you a more detailed summary of the first 6 months statistics:

West Cork Rapid Response voluntarily managed 78 patients from 48 call outs. This is an average of 8 call outs per month or 13 patients a month. 25% of our patients are children under the age of 16.

Our work has not stopped here. We have additionally supported the HSE in transferring 4 critically ill Cork babies all the way to specialist care in Dublin and even abroad, through the use of our highly specialised pre-hospital intensive care ventilator and monitoring equipment. We operate to the highly demanding standards imposed by the Association of Anesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland for providing pre-hospital anesthetics and critical care interventions… to put it simply, the same standard of equipment, drugs, monitoring and personnel on the side of the road that you would expect in hospital, and no less…

We do so entirely in conjunction with a rapidly modernising and expanding HSE ambulance service. I wish to use this opportunity to acknowledge and wholeheartedly support the introduction of the superb Advanced Paramedic programme into West Cork. More lives will undoubtedly be saved.

To the overall HSE ambulance response, in 35% of all call outs, we have enabled a service over and above existing ambulance service capabilities, quite literally bringing the skills, drugs and equipment of the emergency room to the side of the road.

However, it is probably in the simple things, that we are making the biggest impact in our community. Our doctors prevented a staggering 33 out of a possible 78 ambulance journeys, standing down an ambulance in 27% of all calls, a figure closely resembling the 31% of ambulance journeys prevented by pre-hospital doctors in Cork, as published by Professor Cusack last year in the Irish Medical Journal. Think about this for a moment….

We have a finite ambulance resource in West Cork. When we treat and discharge a patient at the scene, we immediately free up, in 27% of all call outs, a vital life saving ambulance resource for another West Cork person in distress.

West Cork Rapid Response … Saving 2 lives a month in West Cork

We are a voluntary committee working with donations that we receive from the people of West Cork. All of this would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our committee members all doing this in their free time. If there is anybody out there with time on their hands who would be willing to join the committee and bring new ideas we would be delighted to have you assist us.

Our vision is to have more vehicles on the road with more GP’s giving of their time and service to us and maybe even in the future an air service to complement this.

by John Kearney, Chairman

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