Almost nine months after it officially kicked off, Nagambie’s ambulance service is going from strength to strength.
Community members fought for years to have an ambulance presence in the growing town, and since its inception, the need has been well and truly warranted.
Under the watchful eye of paramedic team leader Bec Hance and MICA paramedic Craig Hazelwood, 15 ambulance community officers now service the community around the clock, while Mr Hazelwood provides full-time seasonal paramedic support from September through to Easter, and longer if required.
Mr Hazelwood, who has been a MICA paramedic for the better part of two decades, said the work load and demand had increased for the Nagambie ACOs as time had gone on.
‘‘Once there’s an ambulance in town, it tends to generate its own work,’’ he said.
‘‘People know we are here now and they trust the service.
‘‘What would have happened in the past was something would have gone wrong — say someone had chest pain or a shortness of breath — and they would have thought ‘well, by the time we wait for the car to come down from Murchison or Shepparton, we could be at hospital so we’ll just get going ourselves’. But after a while people think ‘well, actually, we’ve got an ambulance in town now, so I’ll call them’.’’
The ACOs are more or less trained to do what a paramedic would normally do in the first few minutes of arriving on scene, but can get there far quicker than the paramedics in the area, as the closest ambulance stations are at Murchison or Seymour.
When there’s a call-out in the Nagambie catchment area — which includes Mangalore, Wahring, Longwood, Goulburn Weir and Graytown — the ACOs will be first on the scene, with paramedic support from Seymour or Murchison on their way to provide back-up.
‘‘This model works really well for the town, because the ACOs are pretty much confined to the Nagambie area, which is what the community wanted,’’ Ms Hance said.
‘‘The ACOs here are essentially doing in those first 15 minutes what a paramedic would do anyway, but they can get there much quicker.
‘‘They’re trained to do the first responder model really well, so basically we’ve taught them to do the first 15 minutes of our job and then we’ll take over from there.
‘‘The ACOs do training in all sorts of scenarios they may be presented with. They can treat everything first line, such as asthma, chest pain, musculoskeletal issues, all those things you would do as a paramedic when you first arrive, but then that extended treatment and care that’s above the ACO will come from a paramedic.’’
Ambulance services are not only on the improve in Nagambie, however, with response times across the state at an all-time high.
The March quarter data shows that 80 per cent of code one emergency calls were responded to within the target of 15 minutes — the first time it has reached that mark since 2010 — and on average, ambulances are arriving at the scene of life-threatening emergencies nearly a minute faster now than they were a year ago.
‘‘We don’t have the exact stats for Nagambie, but we definitely know it’s improved community service to the town and we’re getting to local patients quicker,’’ Ms Hance said.
Mr Hazelwood said the ambulance service was in a ‘‘pretty good spot at the moment’’.
‘‘I’ve been in the service a long time and this is the best position I’ve ever seen it in,’’ he said.