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We should have air ambulance like rest of UK, says crash medic

By Staff Reporter

Published 19/05/2015

An air ambulance
An air ambulance

A doctor who attended riders and a female spectator injured in the North West 200 crash has called for Northern Ireland to have its own dedicated air ambulance service.

The crash happened during the opening Superstock race on Saturday morning and it left road racer Stephen Thompson and spectator Violet McAfee seriously injured.

While Mr Thompson and Austrian racer Horst Saiger were taken to Causeway Hospital by ambulance, Ms McAfee had to be airlifted from Portrush to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast by a helicopter from Sligo.

Dr John Hinds was one of two motorcycle mounted medics on duty throughout the event.

An anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital, Dr Hinds is also a trauma specialist.

"I have long believed that Northern Ireland needs its own dedicated air ambulance service to deal with major accidents," he said.

"We have an ad hoc system here and unlike the rest of the UK and most of Europe, we still don't have an air ambulance and no trauma network.

"In other countries, there are more structures and processes in place. In Manchester, Leeds, London, Wales and Scotland, if someone is critically injured, there are air ambulance teams ready to be dispatched.

"In Northern Ireland, there is no similar advanced pre-hospital care and victims are brought to the nearest small hospital.

"There can be significant delays in getting them to the major hospitals and sometimes they never even get the transfer." The need for an air ambulance was also discussed at Stormont yesterday following the weekend crash.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton said a permanent service would be a good thing if the appropriate resources were available.

"That will require not just investment in a helicopter but investment in staff and maintenance... but also infrastructure to ensure that there is an appropriate place to land it. It is something that is on the agenda and the events of the weekend highlight it."

TUV leader Jim Allister told the Assembly there was nowhere to land it at the Royal, Northern Ireland's main trauma hospital.

A variety of reports are being prepared on the prospect of an all-Ireland service, Mr Hamilton added.

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