Welcoming the launch of the service, Paul Cavanagh, Assistant Director of Commissioning at the Health and Social Care Board said:
“Northern Ireland’s HEMS will benefit people whose lives are at serious risk following significant trauma. The emergency helicopter, providing 24-hour cover across Northern Ireland, is based at the Maze Long Kesh site. A doctor and paramedic working on board the aircraft will administer pre-hospital care at scene and patients will avail of rapid transport to the most appropriate hospital in the province, including the Major Trauma Centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.”
The emergency helicopter attended a number of incidents during preparatory and training periods over the weeks prior to the formal launch. The first call the service was dispatched to was to help a young boy who was injured in a farm incident in Castlewellan on Saturday 22 July. Conor was quickly airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment.
Since March 2016, the Department of Health, Air Ambulance NI, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, the Health and Social Care Board and the Health and Social Care Trusts have worked collaboratively to secure the provision of the HEMS in Northern Ireland. Key to this partnership approach was the contribution of Commissioning Directorate staff from the Health and Social Care Board who co-ordinated the emergence of HEMS, facilitating building relationships among key parties and liaising closely with Department of Health on progress and implementation of the service.
Ian Crowe, Chairperson of Air Ambulance NI (AANI) said:
“AANI and our partners remain passionately committed to providing the sustainable and world class helicopter emergency medical service we promised. The fundraising efforts so far have been vital in helping the charity advance toward the £2m a year target it needs to raise to make the service sustainable. We are delighted that Northern Ireland is no longer the only part of the UK without this life-saving service.”
Registered Charity Air Ambulance NI provide the aviation side of the service and fund the non-medical costs of HEMS. The medical staff and equipment are provided and funded by the Department of Health.