Northern Ireland military assistance operation in pandemic named after female nurse

Northern Ireland military assistance operation in pandemic named after female nurse

Belfast City Hospital was one of three hospitals in Northern Ireland where the military assisted. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

The military’s recent assistance at hospitals on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland was named after a female nurse, it has emerged.

Some 110 combat medical technicians (CMTs) were deployed to the region in January as hospitals struggled to cope with the post-Christmas surge in Covid-19 cases.

They stepped in at three hospitals for five weeks, finishing at the end of February.

On International Women’s Day, the Ministry of Defence in Northern Ireland tweeted further detail about Operation Baird.

The operation was named after Mary Baird MBE, described as a former Belfast chief nursing officer and Second World War veteran who had served in Normandy in 1944.

Of the 110 CMTs, 28 were women while a further ten women were involved in supporting roles such as driving and administrative duties.

Northern Ireland’s chief nursing officer Professor Charlotte McArdle last month told the health committee the CMTs had been a “welcome addition”.

“They have been a valuable asset to the current nursing workforce at the peak of the pandemic surge,” she told MLAs.

First Minister Arlene Foster issued a public thank you for their assistance.

Meanwhile, during 2020 the RAF transported four very ill Covid-19 patients to hospitals in England for specialist life-saving treatment that was then not available in Northern Ireland.

On a flight in June, the RAF A400M pilot and lead medical crew were women, as well the NHS consultant in charge of the specialist transferral team.

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