herald

Friday 21 September 2018

'I don't want to see another family go through what we did' - Gavin's mum wants air ambulance solution

The Air Corps had carried out some medical transfers. Stock Image
The Air Corps had carried out some medical transfers. Stock Image

The mother of a young boy flown to the UK for a heart transplant, but who later died, has warned that new temporary night-time air ambulance cover "doesn't go far enough to look after Ireland's children".

Maria Coyne's son, Gavin (10), died in a UK hospital, hundreds of miles away from his home in Clarehall, Dublin, on February 20 last year.

Though still grieving for her child, Ms Coyne has been campaigning for a better healthcare system for child transplant patients.

It has now emerged a new multimillion euro two-year contract to provide night cover for the HSE to transport patients to the UK has been installed.

Solution

Air Alliance, a UK-based service with links to Austria and Germany, has been awarded the contract until a long-term solution is found.

The company was given the contract, believed to be worth several million euro, following an extensive tendering process carried out by the HSE.

However, Ms Coyne said a temporary service "falls far short" of what Irish children "deserve."

"I want to see a longer term solution. We're talking about a lot of money being invested in this plan," she told the Herald.

"What's the point in temporary moves like this? It could be a waste of money if we could get someone in who can do the job full stop, from now on and not a temporary solution.

"If we can't provide that service in this country, we need someone to come in on a permanent basis from another country."

Maria Coyne with son Gavin
Maria Coyne with son Gavin

It took 10 days for Gavin's body to be returned home by ferry and the family was left to pay for his removal from Belfast Port to his Dublin home.

The family also had to pay for flights back and forth to see the bright schoolboy while he was being treated in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle a month before he died.

After her son's death, Ms Coyne called for the Air Corps, which had only been picking children up during the day and evening, to have extended hours and to be there for any child who did not survive.

The mother said that what her family had been through had been "very traumatic" and she wanted a longer term solution for children in need of transplants, and their families.

"Gavin had to travel alone and we didn't know if he was going to get to Newcastle alive," she said.

"One of his family should have been allowed to travel with him. We don't know if this temporary plan will allow for that.

"I don't want to see another family go through what we did. It's awful.

Expense

"And the treatment support scheme only pays for one adult flight, so while a child transplant patient is flown to the UK, their family have to pay for flights.

"It's too stressful organising flights and an expense families shouldn't have to bear."

Ms Coyne felt the new plan was "a step in the right direction" but a temporary contract just "doesn't go far enough".

She was speaking after the lucrative two-year contract to provide night cover for the HSE to transport patients to the UK was put in place.

Last September, limitations were placed on Irish Coast Guard crews which doubled up to cover hospital transfers while on 24-hour search and rescue shifts.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) also placed restrictions on staff in the Air Corps. Medical transfers had primarily been carried out by the Air Corps and the Irish Coast Guard.

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