IRELAND'S specialist neurological hospital has been criticised for airlifting patients to Dublin Airport before transferring them up the M1 motorway by ambulance because it does not have landing facilities on site.
Senior ambulance personnel said that while a number of other hospitals have landing sites, they can no longer use them as they are outdated and unsuitable for modern aircraft.
A football pitch on the Beaumont campus, which had been used for landing patients in the past, was replaced with a car park.
Fine Gael Cllr Kieran Dennison criticised the situation at a recent meeting of the Dublin and North Eastern Health Forum and said it was unacceptable that patients could not be airlifted straight to Beaumont.
"It seems crazy that a very ill patient transferred from say Sligo General Hospital to Beaumont in Dublin must be brought by ambulance to the nearby army base and then flown to Dublin Airport before completing the journey by ambulance down the M1 in peak-time traffic," he said.
"Beaumont Hospital specialises in head and spinal injuries and gets most of the air ambulance transfers.
"The facilities there must be upgraded as soon as possible so that critical cases can be airlifted without delay."
According to Cllr Dennison, Oliver Reilly, assistant chief ambulance officer for the north east, told the meeting that many of the older helipads at hospitals were built over 30 years ago and designed to accommodate the now defunct Alouettes flown by the Air Corps.
The HSE was unable to respond to queries relating to individual hospitals at the time of going to press.
Dr Bill Tormey, a consultant at Beaumont Hospital and chairman of the Dublin and North East Health Forum, said patients used to be regularly flown into the grounds but that this facility had long since been removed.
"They used to use Alouette helicopters which can land anywhere. Now the new ones are much heavier and they can't land anywhere except somewhere that is air-traffic controlled and that has a fixed landing pad," he said.
"So they can't land at Beaumont. It could be a problem because they can't land in a number of places including St James's or Vincent's."
However, a spokesman for Beaumont Hospital said that while helicopters landed in the campus occasionally, it never had a dedicated landing site.
"They do provide a helicopter service but they bring it to Dublin Airport which is just up the road and then they take them to Beaumont," he said.
"I don't know why there wasn't one built at the time but there isn't a specialised air-ambulance service at the moment."
A spokesman for the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said: "There would be a lot of hospitals with landing sites but they were put in place for Alouette helicopters that are no longer in use.
"For operators like civil or commercial companies, a landing site would have to conform to the criteria for the size and performance of the helicopter.
"For a helicopter to go into a landing site at a hospital – in terms of dimensions that the operator would have to comply with – most of the landing sites in hospitals wouldn't conform with these at the moment."