The Fermanagh and Omagh District Council passed a motion on Tuesday night requesting that Northern Ireland’s only air ambulance is funded solely by public monies.

Currently, the service is funded by a combination of money from the Department of Health (DoH), the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and Air Ambulance NI (AANI) – a charity.

This was stated in letters sent back to the council from DoH and NIAS respectively, which were discussed in the chamber during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Councillor Josephine Deehan, an independent but formerly of the SDLP, who proposed the motion, said: “Neither letters from DoH or NIAS address the really important issues. Charitable donations shouldn’t have to support this service. The letters simply represent statements of what we already know.”

Councillor Adam Gannon, of the SDLP, suggested that in the case of a shortfall from the AANI’s charitable donations the council should request, in new letters, that the department will agree to cover the extra costs needed to sustain the service.

However, Councillor Deehan rejected this. She preferred that the letters request that all the costs should be covered by public funds, via DoH and NIAS.

Council are also seeking clarification from Richard Pengelly, the Health Permanent Secretary, regarding the role of the air ambulance, going forward in Fermanagh, if stroke services are to leave the SWAH as many are predicting.

This will happen in four out of six possible outcomes laid out by DoH in its public consultation papers regarding the shake-up of stroke service delivery throughout the whole of Northern Ireland.

On this, the DUP councillor, Deborah Armstrong, said: “I don’t wish to detract from the great work that the air ambulance does, however, there is no evidence to prove that the air ambulance will really help in this regard.”

Sinn Féin’s councillor, Chris McCaffrey agreed, saying: “I also would not deny the great work of the air ambulance but I really don’t think it is a substitute for a dedicated stroke unit at the SWAH.”

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, m added: “The air ambulance doesn’t even fly when it’s dark or in bad weather.” He also criticised NIAS for outsourcing some of its operational costs to external companies, calling it “privatisation of the NHS through the backdoor.”