Unanimous support has been expressed at the Causeway Coast and Glens council for the campaign to secure an air ambulance for Northern Ireland.
DUP Councillors James McCorkell and George Duddy submitted a motion calling for the council to support the Air Ambulance campaign started by the late Dr John Hinds, the so called ‘flying doctor’ who tragically lost his life in an accident at a motorcycling event in the Republic of Ireland last month.
DUP Councillor James McCorkell said: “This notice of motion has come about following an approach that was made to me by members of the motor biking fraternity in Limavady. I’m sure everyone will be familiar with the petition for an Air Ambulance for Northern Ireland that is currently ongoing.
“It is the strong desire of the biking community and I believe the vast majority of people here that the vision of the Late Doctor John Hinds becomes a reality.
“I was delighted to hear the Finance Minister Arlene Foster state that an Air Ambulance could be a reality by next year. Work has been ongoing for the last 18 months and as things stand, a new company, The Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Company has been set up as a Limited Company and has applied for charitable status.
“Dr Hinds’ family are also in the process of setting up a Trust Fund to support his vision and I know Dr Hinds himself met with the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Company just before his tragic death.
“Minister Foster has said it will take ‘a cocktail of funding to make this vision a reality’, and this is why it is so important that everyone, including everyone at Stormont, work together to make this a reality.
“Our new council area plays host to the North West 200 and Doctor Hinds’ involvement in the Race, especially this year is well documented. However we have several other major events across our new area which could make use of an Air Ambulance if the sad circumstances arose, the Armoy Races and the Air Show to name just two.
“In fact since I first submitted this notice of motion to Council, there have been two high profile incidents here in Northern Ireland in which an emergency air ambulance had to be brought from Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland to ferry injured parties to hospital. But it’s not just about high profile sporting and public events, it can provide for so much more across our rural roads by way of emergency cover.
“In Doctor John Hinds’ own words during the last North West 200, ‘an emergency helicopter is a necessity, not a luxury’. He went on to claim that it would be a game changer in terms of trauma provision in Northern Ireland. Doctor Hinds was the leading expert in the field up until his tragic death in an incident at the Skerries 100 races recently.
“Northern Ireland is largely a rural community, and the rural network becomes problematic when it comes to getting ground crews in and out of emergency situations in a timely fashion. We are now the only region in the United Kingdom and Ireland that does not have its own dedicated Air Ambulance Service.
“Air Ambulance cover in the rest of the UK is roughly one Air Ambulance per 1.5 million of population and those living in these areas who suffer severe trauma incidents, have at least a 25 per cent better chance of survival.
“With our population here in Northern Ireland of almost 1.9 million, regardless of the cost, I believe Doctor Hinds was correct and it is a necessity, not a luxury.”
He added: “Doctor John Hinds’ call-sign ‘Delta 7’ was once heard across the Triangle roads of this Borough during the NW200. I hope everyone will support this motion and that one day his vision will become a reality.
“Wouldn’t it be great if his call-sign was once again heard as Northern Ireland’s own Air Ambulance comes into land at one of our hospitals, as it provides its life-saving intervention service to someone in desperate medical need?”
SDLP Councillor Maura Hickey said: “It is clear that North South collaboration has worked in other areas so perhaps that is an avenue we can look at.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Cara McShane said the huge numbers visiting largely isolated tourist hotspots would benefit. She said: “We have tourist attractions such as the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giant’s Causeway in our area so maybe that is is an angle that we could look at.”
Councillor McCorkell’s proposal gained unanimous approval.