Council pledges to help safeguard ‘vital’ lifesaving air ambulance
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
A Gwynedd councillor and former ambulance man of 20 years has shared personal recollections of how a child would have died had it not been for the swift arrival of the air ambulance.
Tywyn Councillor John Pughe was speaking following a notice of motion tabled by Councillor Llio Elenid Owen calling to safeguard the ‘vital’ service.
Cllr Owen had called for support for the Wales Air Ambulance service (WAA) during Cyngor Gwynedd’s full council meeting on Thursday 1 December.
The lifesaving service, with bases at Dinas Dinlle and Welshpool, could move to Rhuddlan or the north east.
During her address the Groeslon Councillor had described the service’s “great and critical, key work,” and said that many rural communities were “completely dependent” on the service in an emergency.
Fearing the move could result in a longer waits for urgent care in some areas she raised concerns at the “risk to loss of life” in Gwynedd.
She also questioned the reliability of data suggesting the service would meet a higher demand, possibly 580 call outs a year if it moved.
The motion read: “The Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) is a vital emergency medical service, and it is totally essential for the residents of Gwynedd.
“Closing their existing sites at Dinas Dinlle and Welshpool and centralising it in north-east Wales will slow down the emergency response to the furthest and most difficult to reach areas.
“This is extremely concerning for our residents here in Gwynedd. This will also mean that another exceptionally important service is moving from north-west Wales to the north-east, to the detriment of our rural communities.
“The rural nature and secluded roads of our areas here in Gwynedd means that saving lives is challenging and relocating the WAA will make this an even greater challenge. This invaluable service must be safeguarded.
“I therefore propose that Cyngor Gwynedd calls on the Wales Air Ambulance and relevant bodies to keep the centres at Dinas Dinlle and Welshpool and build on the services in their current locations.”
Her proposal was seconded by Cllr Elfed Williams and gained a swathe of support from councillors.
In a debate, Cllr John Pughe said he was “fully supportive” of retaining the Caernarfon and Welsh air ambulance bases.
“I worked for 20 years on the ambulance service, and I am fully aware of the distances we had to travel,” he said.
“In this day and age ambulances are waiting three to six hours for an ambulance to come to an emergency. So it is very, very important that these air ambulances are still able to cover us as they do now.
“There are many things I can tell you about the ambulance service, in one situation, a small child had swallowed something, in another half-hour that child would have been dead.
“That time, the ambulance from Welshpool covered us, we need the support of these bases, if they want more cover to Rhuddlan or Hawarden there is plenty of money, businesses that could sponsor them and then we’d all be covered.
“We are in a very rural area. We have had three or four drownings in the Tywyn area: yes the coastguard can turn out as well, but the air ambulance is quicker.”
Cllr Delyth Lloyd Griffiths said the loss of the service from the area was “serious” for everyone in Gwynedd but “very serious” for people in the highly rural south Meirionnydd area.
Cllr Beth Lawton added “If we lose this service in south Meirionnydd, we will lose this service, we will lose lives.”
Cllr Coj Parry said he supported everything said and shared his family experience of the service.
Cllr Gwynfor Owen added that the service was “essential and vital” for Gwynedd and north West Wales and that residents living in rural areas of Gwynedd would not receive an equal service to people living on the A55.
“We must tell the ambulance service we want the same service for our rural areas as urban areas. It’s a privilege to support this.”
Council leader Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn agreed the service was “vital for the rural areas and far flung areas, in north and mid Wales.”
A meeting had been held at the council, and it was understood that the situation was “not totally in the hands of the air ambulance itself.”
He added there was “a real need to establish the facts, to get the data out clearly and assess the situation, if there is a need to change, to improve the service we should do that based on firm data and clear evidence.
“We have proposed to the charity, to the air ambulance that we are ready to assist at any time.”
Cllr Eryl Jones “supported everything said” but also questioned why another base could not be established in Rhuddlan.
In a vote, the council unanimously support the motion, 38 in favour, no objections or abstentions.
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