A total of 260 medical aircraft movements by the Irish Air Corps and Irish Coast Guard was recorded at University Hospital Galway's (UHG ) helipad last year. The number represents 49 per cent of all medical helicopter missions in the State for 2018, which include emergency calls, transfers, and search and rescue.
More than half (132 ) of the missions that were conducted at UHG's helipad were for emergency aeromedical services, with the Irish Coast Guard and emergency interhospital transfers accounting for 95 and 33 missions respectively.
The second most used medical helipad in the State was University Hospital Limerick, which accounted for nearly 20 per cent of missions carried out last year. The news comes after Galway city councillors received a presentation on Monday at City Hall from the medical director of the National Ambulance Service, Professor Cathal O’Donnell, on a proposed helicopter landing and parking zone.
The proposed zone at UHG would be 3.5 acres in size and would facilitate simultaneous helicopter landings. The presentation, which was for information purposes ahead of the consultation process with councillors, also proposed a 4G football pitch.
Prof O'Donnell said many people were alive today because of the helipad and that "it was a critical piece of infrastructure". Despite acknowledging the importance the helipad plays in saving lives in the west of Ireland, some councillors were concerned about amenity space for the local community in Shantalla.
Independent councillor Colette Connolly said there was a lack of consultation with residents and asked had any other sites been examined. Cllr Connolly said; “No one needs reminding of the importance [of the helipad]. [My concern] is about the taking over by the helipad of RA (recreational area ) zoned lands without permission in Shantalla.”
Labour councillor Billy Cameron asked where was the social dividend for the community in Shantalla. He said; “I want to revert to 2006 when HSE were good neighbours and entered into a bona fide land swap. The land we were to receive now has a car park built on it.
“We need our green spaces. RA is precious in the city. Where is the social dividend for the people of Shantalla?”
Galway city west councillor Peter Keane said he was disgusted that councillors were not 100 per cent behind the helipad proposal because of the use of public amenity land and highlighted there should also be a 4G (synthetic ) pitch installed for the local community.
Cllr Keane said; “We are being asked to choose for a social dividend. The charts are very clear. There is no question about social dividend and people’s lives. Why are we entering into this argument with people of Shantalla? We are providing a 4G pitch for the people of Shantalla. The fact we are considering there is a trade off for people’s lives disgusts me.”
Cllr Donal Lyons concurred with Cllr Keane’s assessment, arguing the common good must be placed above everything when the consultation process begins.