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Let's get vital air ambulance service off ground

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 27/07/2015

The air ambulance comes down to land in Armoy
The air ambulance comes down to land in Armoy

The urgent need for a Northern Ireland air ambulance was highlighted yet again by the serious head injury suffered at the weekend by Ian Simpson at the Armoy Road Races.

He was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast by an Irish Coastguard helicopter which, fortunately, was in the area.

If it had been further away, and Ian Simpson's transfer to hospital had been delayed, there is no knowing about what might have happened.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which does not have its own air ambulance, and it is not good enough for the people of the province to be treated like second-class citizens.

The need for a local air ambulance has been known for a long time. The absence of an emergency helicopter was highlighted during the G8 Summit in Enniskillen when the organisers had to rent an air ambulance from Scotland.

During the North West 200, a helicopter was sent from Co Sligo to the Coleraine area when a spectator was seriously injured.

Violet McAfee was quickly transferred to a hospital in Belfast, and she later expressed her "shock" on discovering that Northern Ireland does not have its own air ambulance.

Since the tragic death of the late Dr John Hinds, the 'road-racing' doctor, more than 60,000 people have signed a petition for a local air ambulance.

His family has vowed to continue the campaign in memory of Dr Hinds who repeatedly stressed that a local air ambulance would transform trauma provision in Northern Ireland.

The argument has been made forcefully, and significantly the political will seems to be there.

The trustees of Air Ambulance Northern Ireland have confirmed that positive discussions have taken place with Health Minister Simon Hamilton and they hope to create a charity to complement the role of the NI Ambulance Service.

A local air ambulance based near Enniskillen would cost some £2.2m a year to run, and several funding options are being considered.

The initiative needs to be completed as soon as possible, to provide us with a service that is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Every further day of delay will increase the risk of further needless tragedies.

Belfast Telegraph

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