A new push to have a dedicated ambulance station in Tocumwal is gaining support after a public meeting on the future use of the former Tocumwal Bowling Club.
The station was just one potential future use of the site raised at a recent public meeting, and support for it is building.
Tocumwal’s NSW Fire & Rescue brigade members are classified as ‘first responders’ and can administer medical treatment if required, but the nearest fully trained paramedics are based in Finley or Cobram.
While the Bureau of Health Information says paramedics from either of these bases can respond ‘‘within 10 minutes’’, locals say a Tocumwal ambulance station and locally based paramedics would offer greater peace of mind.
Murray Haynes was one of the community members at the public meeting to voice concerns about not having a Tocumwal station.
‘‘Our neighbouring towns have an ambulance service but we don’t, yet we’re the biggest expanding town in the shire.
‘‘I think it’s about time we had one.
‘‘If there is a major fire or accident on the road and the fire services have to attend a scene, what happens if at the same time someone suffered a heart attack?
‘‘They would have to wait at least 10 or 15 minutes for the ambulance to come from Finley.’’
Tocumwal Fire & Rescue captain Ian Desailly said while his firefighters are trained to respond to an emergency, he does concede a local ambulance station would be more suitable for the town.
‘‘Our crew is trained and when we arrive at an emergency an ambulance has already been dispatched,’’ Capt Desailly said.
‘‘But I do think that a town with 2700 people should have an ambulance service.
‘‘We’ll keep acting as first responders for as long as we’re needed.’’
A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said it has the potential to provide more paramedics for the Murrumbidgee Local Health District area, but would not say if Tocumwal was an area of focus or investment.
It maintains residents receive adequate care under the current arrangement.
‘‘NSW Ambulance is committed to ensuring Tocumwal has timely access to paramedic care in the case of a medical emergency,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘Paramedics at nearby Finley Ambulance station, supported by a NSW Ambulance qualified Community First Responder unit in Tocumwal, ensure an appropriate level of coverage is provided to the area.
‘‘The 2017 state budget included an announcement of $7.5 million for 50 additional regional relief paramedics, including five in the Murrumbidgee Zone.
‘‘As part of the 2016 state budget, $12.8 million funded an additional 85 staff — now on the frontline.
‘‘This comes in addition to the $5.1 million in NSW Government funding provided to finish recruiting 35 specialist paramedics, two years earlier than promised at the 2015 state election.’’
Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said council would support any move to have an ambulance station established at Tocumwal.
The former Tocumwal Bowls Club site is situated opposite the Tocumwal Hospital. It is owned by the Tocumwal Lions.
Other suggestions for the site raised at the community meeting include a youth centre or aged care facility.