Air ambulance may start service here from next summer

Alan Cathcart

Alan Cathcart

FERMANAGH and Omagh district council has backed proposals for an air ambulance to be based at St Angelo Airport, Enniskillen.

The need for the service came to prominence following the tragic death of road racing doctor John Hinds, who was killed in an accident while providing medical cover at a Skerries 100 practice session. It was Mr. Hinds’ vision to establish a first-rate trauma network with a doctor-led helicopter emergency medical service in Northern Ireland.


Finance Minister Arlene Foster is hopeful the service can be put in place and up and running by the summer of next year.

It is estimated that an air ambulance service could cost in the region of £2.2m per year.

The proposed service would operate from St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen and serve all of Northern Ireland.

Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Limited met with Finance Minister Arlene Foster recently to discuss the possibility of the service being introduced.

At last week’s monthly meeting of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Independent councillor Bernice Swift backed the proposal.

“I think it would be remiss for the council not to lend our support,” she told the meeting and said it should be introduced to save lives and for the benefit of the entire community.

The councillor proposed to write to the health minister Simon Hamilton and the finance minister Arlene Foster stating that the council fully supported the move. This was seconded by DUP councillor David Mahon and agreed by all councillors.


Managing director of Enniskillen Airport Ltd Alan Cathcart explained the facilities are there to provide an air ambulance if and when it is needed.

“We have air traffic control and runway navigation as well as fire service.

“The staff are trained to provide these services.”

He added: “The South West Acute Hospital is two nautical miles away and it’s in our air traffic zone.”

Speaking about the prospect of the air ambulance coming to St Angelo UUP councillor Raymond Farrell stated its merits.

“During the G8 we had to rent an air ambulance from Scotland and that clearly showed the need that existed.

For trauma injuries time is of the essence and to have an air ambulance which can be airborne within three minutes, a patient could potentially be in a specialist Trauma Unit in Belfast from Enniskillen with 30 minutes.

That could be lifesaving and when we look at statistics from countries that have this service, it is reckoned that mortality rates from trauma have been cut by up to 40%

I recall the time of the horrific bomb attack in Omagh some years ago and the use we made of military helicopters at that time, it is believed that many lives were saved by using this means of transport.

Certainly in the rural west and times of poor weather conditions, the addition of an air ambulance would be a very valuable option to have at our disposal.”

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