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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland air ambulance grounded temporarily due to crisis

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The Causeway Hospital in Coleraine

The Causeway Hospital in Coleraine

The Causeway Hospital in Coleraine

Northern Ireland's air ambulance service has been suspended to allow crews to focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

The aircraft stopped operating from yesterday evening, with clinical staff redeployed to critical care duties.

Air Ambulance NI and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said the suspension would be reviewed on an ongoing basis with all parties committed to recommencing it immediately the staff can be reallocated again.

Michael Bloomfield, NIAS chief executive, said: "For the past 32 months the Hems (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) team has provided critical pre-hospital care at trauma incidents across Northern Ireland, saving lives, brains and limbs.

"From today the Hems service will be suspended.

"This has been a difficult decision to take however having the highly skilled members of this team at the front line is crucial to support our community in the most appropriate way during the extraordinary challenges we are facing in managing the pandemic.

"I would like to thank every member of the team for the incredible work they do and look forward to seeing them return to that role as soon as possible." Ray Foran, chairman of the Air Ambulance NI charity, added: "Please be assured that this is a temporary measure.

"We are actively working with our colleagues in NIAS to identify other ways in which we can support patient care as the pandemic develops and other ways in which our aircraft might be deployed in support of the national response.

"The public have been a crucial part of the Air Ambulance NI journey, providing vital funding to the charity to ensure daily operations are possible.

"We at AANI thank everyone for their support and ask you to continue with donations as the team do everything necessary to help out in this crisis."

Meanwhile, Maternity services are being withdrawn from Causeway Hospital as the health and social care trust ramps up plans to release extra bed space ahead of the expected surge in Covid-19 patients.

Women booked in to deliver their babies at Causeway will now have their care transferred to either Altnagelvin or Antrim hospitals.

The trust says the temporary move is to complement the critical care surge plan to establish the Belfast City Hospital tower block as Northern Ireland's first Nightingale Hospital.

Children's and maternity services will be temporarily reconfigured to free up to 130 beds during an extreme surge in acute hospitals, which will be vital in treating the sickest patients and making the best use of hospitals.

Belfast Telegraph