Let me preface my comments firstly by saying that anyone who feels they need an emergency ambulance service should not hesitate to call Triple-0 (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Ambulance paramedics are highly trained to deal with various emergencies. They can administer life saving drugs quickly, when time is of the essence.
Some people may be surprised to know there is one ambulance in Merimbula. There are seven paramedics, equating to six full time equivalent positions. Typically between two and three paramedics work between 8am and 5pm. At night time paramedics are on call; these may be the same paramedics.
The Merimbula station is believed to be one of the busiest stations on the Far South Coast on the basis of the number of incidents that each paramedic handles per day. Other stations may be bigger and handle more cases, but have more paramedics to spread the load.
If the Merimbula ambulance is carrying someone to the ACT, it is not available for an incident locally. That is when the ambulance from, for example, Eden, may be called.
Looking at it from another direction, when a Cooma ambulance goes to Canberra, the Bombala ambulance could be called to assist at Cooma. If anything happens in Bombala, the Eden ambulance goes to assist. That leaves Merimbula and Bega to cover from Mallacoota to the north of the shire. It is not unheard of to have the Narooma ambulance used locally because it is the nearest available.
The new emergency department at Pambula Hospital will offer a nurse-led response for minor illnesses. For the most part, particularly during holiday times, many of those visiting the hospital do so with relatively minor problems.
An ED trained nurse should be able to deal with their ailments, or depending on the time of day send them to a GP. All emergencies will be taken to Bega Hospital as they are now.
When cause is uncertain though, these patients will be taken to Bega; previously they could have been placed under the care of a doctor at Pambula, or kept in the hospital for observation.
The situation is what it is, and there’s no going back because there were not enough doctors to run an emergency service. However, if there is an extra workload to be shifted to our paramedics, then surely it is time to look at their current workloads and the effect this might have?
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