Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson and former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey have met with campaigners for a Northern Ireland Air Ambulance as an 81,000 strong petition is lodged at Stormont.
Commenting after the petition was presented in the Assembly Chamber Mrs Dobson said:
“This petition shows overwhelming public support for the introduction of a local Air Ambulance.
“It is a sad fact that Northern Ireland remains the only region of the United Kingdom without a fully equipped service. Such a service would undoubtedly save lives, enhancing and improving our existing trauma care network.
“I pay tribute to those who have taken the time and effort to gather these signatures in memory of Dr John Hinds, whose tragic death opened up the public debate on a local air ambulance service.
“The Health Minister made a statement last week which pre-empted the petition’s presentation. However the devil will be in the detail and my colleague Michael McGimpsey and I will be rightly watching carefully at Health Committee to see how he proposes to proceed and on what timescale.
“It is hugely important that the Assembly remain responsive to public opinion on issues like this if it is to remain a truly representative body and this petition proves that broad public support exists for a Helicopter Emergency Service (HEMS).”
Also commenting former Health Minister and current member of the Stormont Health Committee Michael McGimpsey said:
“The introduction of this petition is another important step in the process of enhancing trauma care in Northern Ireland.
“Shortly after I became Minister I signed off on the new critical care unit at the Royal. Before doing so however I altered the plans to ensure that an air ambulance would be able to land on a helicopter pad on the building. That came at quite a significant cost, up to £2m; however I was determined to ensure that when an air ambulance system did come into operation it would be able to bring patients directly to the best trauma care available. This was the crucial first step.
“I welcome the petition being lodged at the Assembly which shows the public support and drive for this service and will be keeping a close eye on the Minister and his Department following their recent statement on this issue.”