‘Lives will be saved’: Residents support use of helipad at Mater despite noise levels

A simulation of an air emergency transfer at the Mater Hospital last week.

RESIDENTS LIVING IN Dublin’s north inner city have voiced support for the operation of a landing pad for helicopters at the Mater Hospital, despite concern by council planners about the impact of the facility on people living in the area.

A local residents’ association said it backed the use of the helipad which hospital authorities have estimated could save up to nine lives per year.

The Mater Hospital has submitted a fresh application for planning permission for the use of the landing pad in its surface car park on Eccles Street.

Although it secured approval for a similar facility three years ago, when it was opposed by some local residents, the current permission for the helipad is due to expire in December.

The chairman of the Leo Street and District Residents’ Association, Tony Kelly, said people had unanimously decided following a public meeting two years ago not to oppose or impede any planning application for the development of a helipad at the Mater.

“Residents recognise the need for such a facility and the need to save minutes to save lives,” Kelly said.

There is a willingness in our community to put up with a few minutes of noise in the knowledge that a life may be saved.

Kelly said the position of the residents’ association was reaffirmed followed its recent annual general meeting.

Dublin City Council has sought further information from the Mater about its plans for the use of the helipad amid “significant concerns” about its potential impact on homes in the immediate vicinity, as well as discrepancies in information provided about the number and timing of helicopter trips.

The local authority said the location of the helipad could also jeopardise plans for the future expansion of the Mater campus.

‘Life or death’

Consultants acting for the hospital have now confirmed that the likely maximum number of flights using the helipad is eight per month.

They also claimed the operation of the helipad is likely to be limited to use during daylight hours with no flights anticipated between 10pm and 7am.

The Mater also said it did not anticipate needing the location of the helipad for the future development of the hospital before 2031 based on current demographic trends.

In the long term, the hospital said it planned to relocate the helicopter to the roof of a building to be constructed under a future phase of the hospital’s development.

The hospital’s director of estates and facilities, Alan Sharp, said it was “imperative that patient transfer to the hospital for early treatments is as rapid as possible” as the Mater was the national centre for cardiac surgery, heart and lung transplants and spinal injuries.

“It continues to be demonstrated that at least nine deaths per year are attributed to delays in getting such patients to hospital using road transport,” Sharp added.

The hospital said the helipad would be for “life or death use only”.

A simulation exercise of the helipad was conducted at the Mater last week involving an Army Air Corps helicopter to practice the transfer of a patient to the hospital’s accident and emergency department.

A ruling on the application for planning permission for the helipad by Dublin City Council is due shortly.

Source: The Journal.

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