Pressure is building for an air ambulance in Northern Ireland following the tragic death of road racing ‘flying doctor’ John Hinds.
Dr Hinds’s motorcycle crashed during a practice session at the Skerries 100 race on Friday where he was providing medical cover.
By Sunday night, more than 24,000 people had signed an online petition calling on Stormont’s health department to provide the life-saving airborne service as a matter of urgency.
The 35-year-old clinician from Tandragee – who had campaigned vigorously for an air ambulance, including in an article in the News Letter – combined working as a consultant at Craigavon Area Hospital (CAH) with his voluntary role for the Motorcycle Union of Ireland.
He was rushed to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin but died of his injuries on Saturday morning.
Paula Clarke, interim chief executive of the Southern Health Trust, said: “John was a much loved and highly regarded member of the intensive care team as a greatly skilled, dedicated and compassionate doctor whose patients always came first.
He saved so many lives. Absolute heroUlster Grand Prix organisers
“We are all deeply saddened by his tragic and untimely passing and he will be sorely missed.”
A former colleague at the CAH paid tribute to Dr Hinds as both a “wonderful man and doctor”.
Dr Peter Maguire said: “On a personal level, he was an absolute gentleman and a wonderful colleague. He was incredibly kind to patients and an incredibly good colleague. He was a great guy and it’s shocking news.”
Dr Maguire added: “John was an inspiration in terms of his absolute commitment to better managing trauma.”
Another medical professional who signed the petition at change.org said she has fond memories of the dedicated doctor.
Erin Burns said: “I worked in ICU Craigavon with John Hinds and have seen his passion, commitment and selfless determination to help people.
“It is sad that Dr Hinds’s death has led to this petition and his dreams could have been fulfilled when he was alive. But if getting an air ambulance for NI comes from his death, that can only be a good thing.”
Another used Twitter to say “the world has lost an inspiration”.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “I had the honour of meeting Dr Hinds recently. His skill was undoubted but what shone through was his passion for his work.
“John was extremely well regarded not just within the medical profession, but right across the motorcycling world, where his loss will be greatly mourned.”
Dr Hinds was the partner of Dr Janet Acheson who is an obstetrician at Daisy Hill Hospital.
His death has shocked road racing fans around the world who have been paying tribute to the selfless medic.
The organisers of the North West 200 said Dr Hinds was “an integral part of our race meeting, and never more so than in the last year, and his loss will be immeasurable,” while the Ulster Grand Prix team said: “He saved so many lives. Absolute hero”.
In a death notice in Monday’s News Letter, trainee doctors at the CAH intensive care unit praised Dr Hinds as “a true inspiration, an exceptional teacher and an incredible doctor”.
Speaking to the BBC about his road racing role in 2009, Dr Hinds said: “Hospital medicine has become very much full of protocols and guidelines – out here it’s a wee bit more ‘seat of your pants’ medicine really.
“And it’s very rewarding to be able to treat people that way: where you don’t have a sterile operating field and you’re not in a resuscitation bay; you’re very often in a ditch somewhere.”