The helicopter emergency medical service has been temporarily suspended by Air Ambulance Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.
The service was stood down at 7pm on April 3rd. The action has been taken in order to free up key clinical staff to be redeployed to use their specific skills and expertise in critical care during the current public health emergency.
The suspension of the service will be reviewed on an ongoing basis with all parties committed to recommencing the service immediately when the staff can be reallocated, according to a spokesperson.
AANI and NIAS responded to an emergency call at 2pm on Wednesday (April 8th) in Dungiven.; members of HEMS team responded to the call.
“NIAS and the wider Health and Social Care system are working to balance staff resource between many competing demands, should the HEMS team be available.”
“We will continue to respond to incidents that require urgent medical assistance. Our helicopter, maintenance and pilot staff are operationally ready to be deployed, if needed, during this current crisis.”
Michael Bloomfield, NIAS chief executive said: “For the past 32 months, the HEMS team has provided critical pre-hospital care at trauma incidents across Northern Ireland, saving lives, brains and limbs.”
“This has been a difficult decision to take, however, having the highly skilled members of this team at the frontline 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, chairperson of Air Ambulance NI 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 has been a “crucial” part of the Air Ambulance NI journey providing 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. Please donate online at www.airambulanceni.org.”
Supporting the decision, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “The decision to temporarily suspend HEMS was not taken lightly. It further illustrates the difficult choices that are having to be made.”
“I sincerely thank the consultants and HEMS staff and paramedics for the ongoing support as they now prepare to undertake a further critical role in the fight against Covid-19.” Swann concluded.
Image source: Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Facebook