GARDA Paul Baynham is leading a life-saving scheme being trialed at Mayorstone Garda Station on the Northside of Limerick City. He explains to Andrew Carey how he became involved with the pilot programme and his hopes to have it rolled out nationwide.
In October 2013, Paul Baynham was on duty with colleague Niamh Kennedy when a call came through that a baby suffering breathing difficulties had turned blue while being brought from Ennis to University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
The two Limerick Gardaí intercepted the 17-day-old infant and his parents en route to the hospital. They transferred him to their patrol car where Garda Baynham, who is a qualified Emergency Medical Technician, managed to open his airway and keep him breathing until they reached UHL.
Four years later, the little boy is full of life and boundless energy, thanks to the lifesaving intervention of the two quick-thinking Gardaí.
That incident acted as a catalyst for Garda Baynham to look at the critical minutes between an emergency alert being raised and the arrival of first responders.
When the HSE ambulance is mobilised, a text alert goes to the community based project from the 999 service for all responders to react.
The pilot scheme being led by Garda Baynham, sees medically trained Gardaí responding to emergency calls within a 7km radius of the Mayorstone station.
Initiated last October, the scheme has already been credited with saving ten lives because of the team’s intervention in those “critical minutes between life and death”.
“If we are on duty and not attending a policing call, we can respond immediately to a medical emergency,” Garda Baynham explains.
The Kerry native said that although the text alerts only come to his phone, he is one of three trained Gardaí who are equipped with a high-tech medics “jump” bag which includes a defibrillator and a range of first aid equipment.
The Mayorstone scheme reaches parts of east Clare including Sixmilebridge and Parteen as well as to Rosbrien and Castletroy on the outskirts of Limerick city.
“What we are is a stop-gap to stop the clock running from the time the emergency call is made to when the ambulance gets to the scene.
“That means the casualty is getting the best chance of survival because, as long as they can get cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within a couple of minutes of the call being made, the chances of survival are very high,” he said.
Since October 2016, Garda Baynham and his two colleagues, Det Sean O’Hagan and Gda Aidan Riordan, have been alerted to 70 incidents and in ten cases, their interventions have proven to be life saving.
As a fully trained EMT, Garda Baynham said that even when he is not working, he still gets the emergency alerts.
“If I’m in the area, I will certainly go to them but if I am not, I will get on to the central communications control room at Henry Street and get them to send the next nearest unit to assist.
“In the cases we have been successful in, it happened that we were alerted at the right time, in the right area and we were mobile so we could get in to bridge the gap in those vital minutes.
“We would only be alerted to life threatening critical incidents of cardiac arrest, somebody not breathing or choking. Somebody is down, so seconds count. We can get there under blue lights and sirens so there’s an advantage there and that’s the beauty of this.”
“At peak times, the National Ambulance Service could be stretched far and wide for any number of reasons and the nearest available resource could be outside the county miles away. That’s why we met with the District Office in Henry Street and put forward this proposal,” Garda Baynham explained.
He hopes that if the six-month review in April is positive, the programme will be rolled out to more stations in Limerick and possibly taken on as a nationwide initiative.
“The project is supported by the Civil Defence who have given us use of equipment and that means there has been no cost to the force or the State.
“People are seeing a different side to the Gardaí through this initiative. When 999 is alerted, you could have two Gardaí turning up, performing CPR or deploying the defibrillator and trying to get that next step in the chain of survival until the ambulance arrives.
“We are a very, very small link in that chain but we can help and keep people stable until the National Ambulance Service arrives at the scene and that is the beauty about this programme.
“If you asked me what I see a year down the road, I’d hope it would be a case that there would be an EMT patrol car in each station with trained members ready to go. This could work well for rural stations and it is something that could be implemented by Gardaí on a nationwide basis.
“If you were to look at one call, for instance, an 18-year-old who went into cardiac arrest on a pitch in a remote area where the closest ambulance could be 12 or 15 minutes away. Imagine if a garda patrol car could be there within four minutes and if the interventions were to be successful and save that young person’s life, I am sure that the €1,500 spent on defibrillator would be seen as a very small cost in the scheme of things,” he said.
The Mayorstone project, a first in the country, is fully supported by Limerick Garda Chief Superintendent Dave Sheahan who has praised the lifesaving efforts of the Mayorstone team.
“We are about the communities we serve and their protection. This programme, from what we have seen first hand, is really adding to the force here in Limerick in respect of the initiative taken and spearheaded by the three Gardaí.
“This has been a worthwhile project and echoes the ethos of preservation of life and property,” he said.