At the full council meeting of Newry Mourne and Down District Council last Monday evening, DUP Councillor Billy Walker called for the council to support the Air Ambulance NI charity.
I delivering his motion to council, Cllr Walker said that the Council should “acknowledge the great work of the Air Ambulance. This life saving service has had to be deployed 54 times in our area in the first ten months of 2018.
“This council should recognise the significant public fundraising efforts to keep the NI Air Ambulance operational and that we as a council contribute to the running costs which currently are around two million annually.
“And we also need to write to Permanent Secretary of Health Richard Pengelly along with the other ten councils to explore ways to ensure that the Air Ambulance operates on a sustainable basis.
“The good will of the general public is tremendous in supporting this charity and it simply needs to keep flying. It is an absolutely important life-saving medical service we should all support.
“It is unfortunate that the Assembly is in limbo at the present moment as that would be the correct mechanism to address this issue. But we are where we are and I think we need to refer this matter to our Efficiency Working Group in the council for its attention. Ideally we need funding from central government for this. If we are not careful this service could be withdrawn if we cannot keep it operational.”
SDLP Councillor Terry Andrews seconded the motion brought forward by Cllr Walker and said: “We need to support such a vital service. It is much needed and we all know the health service is stretched to the limit. But we must look at this as an urgent case.”
Cllr Willie Clarke (SinnFéin) said: “This service should be funded by government really. Every minute in an emergency is critical. The Air Ambulance has had a major impact of saving lives in the Mournes since its inception. But what we really need too is better roads so that our ambulances can get to hospital in reasonable time. Our road infrastructure is very poor. Speed is of the essence in an emergency and there are people alive today thanks to the Air Ambulance.”
Cllr Robert Burgess (UUP), also a farmer, said: “It is a very important service especially for the farming community which has had more than its share of serious accidents. Farms are often inaccessible at times and the Air Ambulance is ideal for accessing difficult areas. I’m deleighted that the Ulster Farmers Union contributed £200,000 last year to the Air Ambulance.”
Cllr Michael Carr (SDLP) said: “This is in fact one our our chairman’s chosen charities this year.”
In summing up, Cllr Walker also suggested the possibility of sending a delegation of councillors to meet with the Permanent Secretary of Health.
The motion received unanimous approval.