An air ambulance for Northern Ireland will save lives, a Co Tyrone doctor said today.
MLA Dr Kieran Deeny added it would be an indispensable tool for the rural community. Health Minister Michael McGimpsey maintained he already has access to a helicopter when necessary.
The Ireland Air Ambulance charity has raised £700,000 in public donations but spent £500,000 on wages and costs.
Dr Deeny, an independent, said: "The air ambulance will undoubtedly save lives, that's for sure. I was lucky enough to witness a similar service in action in Scotland and they view it as an invaluable tool."
He added: "It would be an indispensable tool for the rural community and beyond."
He said women at his Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, GP practice had regularly given birth on his floor.
"It is only by the grace of god that no-one has died or suffered serious injury while waiting for help. An air ambulance would change all of this," the doctor said.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey favours developing ground services. There is also Maritime and Coastguard Agency air backup.
He previously said: "My officials have met representatives from Alpha 5 (the air ambulance charity) on a number of occasions however it has not been possible to agree any protocols for their participation in emergency services in Northern Ireland.
"At the most recent meeting my officials asked Alpha 5 for further evidence of the efficacy of the proposed service and for further assurance about their clinical governance arrangements. That information has not been forthcoming."
Dr Gywn Beattie, clinical director of the charity, said Northern Ireland was one of few regions within Europe without an air ambulance.
"As a surgeon in Enniskillen I am acutely aware that time is of the essence when treating the seriously injured.
"Air cover presently provided by the coastguard lacks the onboard trauma doctor that the Ireland Air Ambulance would carry to treat the casualty. In rural areas this service could literally mean the difference between life and death."