Just days before the Hems4NI petition was due to be presented to Stormont, the Health Minister Simon Hamilton has said the air ambulance vision of Dr John Hinds could become a reality, as he gave his commitment to establishing a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service.
The news has been welcomed across the Province, however, there is a degree of cynicism about the timing by the Minister.
There is no doubt the decision to put plans in place to tranform the major trauma services in Northern Ireland have come about thanks to a public campaign to honour the road racing medic who was tragically killed in a crash at the Skerries 100. Dr Hinds, had long campaigned for a world-class trauma network with a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service at its heart.
Since his untimely death in July, a petition was set up to try to achieve his goal and with tens of thousands of signatures secured, it was due to be handed in at Stormont on Tuesday.
Lisa Hemphill from Portstewart was one of the administrators of the HEMS4NI Facebook page, also handling the signatures on the paper petition spoke about the announcement. “We are obviously delighted that the Air Ambulance will now become a reality and Northern Ireland will no longer be the only area of the United Kingdom without this vital service, however the timing was a bit strange.
“We had planned to go to Stormont on Tuesday to hand in the petition and we had various things organised such as the police helicopter, William Dunlop was coming up and we had asked members of the public to come along too.
“We are now in the process of cancelling all that, however, we will still go along on Tuesday with the petition and to have the consultation. What is vital to us is that we still have some input into how this is run. We need to ensure it is done in the way he wanted and that it is a proper legacy to the work he did.
“If you were a cynical person you would say the timing of the announcement was typical of the politicians, it makes it look like they have decided to do it rather than the fact that they have had to succumb to the power of the people.
“We had around 65,000 people sign the online petition and over 8,000 signatures on the paper petition which is amazing and such a fantastic tribute to Dr. John. Although Dr Hinds was heavily involved in road racing and the push for an air ambulance has received a lot of support from within the sport, the service will benefit everyone. There’s still a long way to be before the infrastructure is in place but the first main step has been taken.”