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North West 200: Unavailability of RVH helipad sparks anger after injured rider's air ambulance diverted

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 14/05/2016

Racing smash: Nico Mawhinney
Racing smash: Nico Mawhinney

Lack of funding and untrained staff are preventing the new air ambulance landing with patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital's helipad, it has been claimed.

There have been calls for urgent investment after it emerged the helipad at the regional critical care centre is still not operational and the air ambulance team are diverted elsewhere.

On Thursday a helicopter carrying crashed North West 200 racer Nico Mawhinney landed at Musgrave Prk Hospital in south Belfast. Mr Mawhinney was taken by ambulance to the RVH.

The RVH helipad was built on top of the new £150m regional critical care building, which opened in August. But the Department of Health said it will be "some months" before it is in use.

It has led to calls for the next Health Minister to act.

The Belfast Trust confirmed that its hospitals are serviced by a helipad at Musgrave Park.

The air ambulance called Delta 7 was named in memory of Dr John Hinds (35), who had lobbied Stormont to create a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), was killed last year in a motorcycle accident.

Chancellor George Osborne announced £4.5 million to help provide the air ambulance.

But UUP MLA Andy Allen, a former soldier who was treated by air ambulance when he was injured in Afghanistan in 2008, said he was "shocked" the helipad was still not available.

He said the UUP had demanded that a £2m helipad be put on the centre before being built.

Mr Allen added: "I am outraged, however, that despite having this world class trauma facility at the Royal patients are still not able to avail of it simply because those at the top of the local health service obviously failed to prepare for the new air ambulance service coming in.

"It is absolutely essential that whoever the next Health Minister is they quickly resolve this issue."

A Health Department spokesman said: "Detailed operational planning for all aspects of the proposed HEMS is under way. This is a major project and it will therefore be some months before the service is in place."

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