Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Where is Nagambie's ambulance?

Nagambie does not have its own ambulance station and residents and health organisations are concerned about the potentially deadly ramifications.

CHALPAT SONTI May 28, 2014 3:57am

Nagambie Healthcare chairman Jim Tehan and chief executive Bronwyn Beadle.


It has been the same story for several years — Nagambie waits for the Victorian Budget, and doesn’t get any closer to having its own ambulance station.

In the meantime the number of CERT first responder volunteers continues to dwindle, to the point where the service is almost out for the count — and Nagambie residents will be a step closer to being in a desperate situation should they need emergency medical help.

The Telegraph supports the quest for some form of ambulance service in Nagambie, and will call on both sides of politics to make an unequivocal commitment to that in the lead-up to the state election later this year.

After all, it is not asking much, especially as the town’s average age increases with just about every new arrival and the population swells by thousands during summer.

The first cab off the rank in our series is Nagambie Healthcare, the largest health organisation in the town, which here for the first time publicly states its support.

Does someone have to die waiting before this request gets taken seriously?

It’s a point not lost on those who run Nagambie Healthcare.

For them, the solution is simple: the town needs an ambulance service. And they, more than most, should know.

As the CERT first responder group struggles against what looks to be an inevitable demise, the hospital has been sounded out by Ambulance Victoria as a possible replacement.

But as Nagambie Healthcare chief executive Bronwyn Beadle said, there was the same major issue with that as there has been in getting an ambulance into the town — money.

‘‘They came and had a meeting with me to try and promote a service from here,’’ she said.

‘‘They asked if we had staff that could go out and respond, like CERT does.

‘‘It’s a reasonable model in terms of us being able to then attract staff who might want to do that. But there needs to be resources.

‘‘I was supportive of the concept, particularly during the day and there would be benefits around maintaining the skill base of staff, but we’re not a big enough service to have an extra floating staff member on in case there’s an emergency and fund that ourselves.’’

The hospital has put what appears a most generous offer on the table.

It would provide facilities on site for an ambulance should it be based in Nagambie, including office space and accommodation.

‘‘There’s already a demonstrated demand particularly in peak season,’’ Ms Beadle said.

‘‘Then look at the aged-care reforms. As they push for people to remain in their homes as long as possible, there needs to be that frontline primary assessment that an ambulance provides.

‘‘Also with the burden of chronic diseases, the push will be for people to be managed at home and again they need that frontline assessment. And particularly with the cutbacks in emergency departments, they’re not wanting people to go to those.’’

Ms Beadle moved to Nagambie from Gippsland, where a child’s death was the catalyst for an ambulance station in a town of about the same size — and that was in an election year.

She hoped that a decision in the affirmative for Nagambie wouldn’t have to wait for some tragic incident.

The demographic make-up of Nagambie is also skewing higher as most of the recent newcomers have been retirees, another good reason for an ambulance, as Nagambie Healthcare president Jim Tehan — whose late wife Marie was Health Minister in the Kennett Government — pointed out.

‘‘That is my main concern, that this area is going to have more and more older retired people,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not going to grow with young people, there’s no jobs here for them, and the pressure to have an ambulance is only going to grow and grow as the average age of the community rises.

‘‘Another point is that with so many people working away from town now, CERT is down to five volunteers and that is critical.

‘‘You can’t keep going at that level.’’

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