Ann and John McLean have been busy over the past six months collecting signatures in support of establishing an ambulance station in Iluka: their goal, to show the state’s politicians that the public supports the idea.
On July 19 they will meet with, and present the petition to, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis; beyond then, Mr Gulaptis will lodge the 11,000-signature petition with the NSW Parliament.
“A copy of every petition received is forwarded to the Minister responsible for the subject contained in the petition,” the Parliament of NSW website states.
“…Petitions of more than 10,000 signatures will be scheduled for discussion in the House.”
Ms McLean said that petitions were placed in businesses, medical practices, caravan parks and pharmacies throughout the region encompassed by Grafton, Ballina, Lismore and Casino.
“The public was behind us 100 per cent,” she said.
She said many people in the region holiday in Iluka, hence the breadth of the petition’s distribution.
“A lot of people who signed in Iluka were holidaying here,” she said.
Recent changes to staffing at the Maclean ambulance station (from five to 12 paramedics), while providing a 24-hour service has not improved the availability of ambulances, with only one of three in service at any one time.
Australian Paramedic Association NSW delegate Todd Hart said there is no on-call crew for emergencies at Maclean, despite Ballina, Grafton and Lismore having 24-hour stations with on-call paramedics for emergencies.
At the Yamba station paramedics are either on duty or on-call for emergencies – however, the station is not in operation 24 hours per day.
Nothing has changed for Iluka, according to Mr Hart, since he said in March: “There has been an explosion in population in this area but despite a major community campaign by residents of Iluka for a better ambulance service, the lives of emergency cases would continue to be put at risk.”
Doctor David Richards, the only fulltime doctor practising in Iluka, has written a letter supporting the establishment of an ambulance station in the town.
“I am in total support of this petition,” he writes. “Iluka has an aging population and when an ambulance is required patients can wait from 40 minutes-plus before help arrives.
“In extreme cases not all patients survive.”
He told the Independent that it was “commonsense, with an aging population and lots of visitors” during holiday times to establish a service in Iluka.
“People here deserve an ambulance station,” he said.
He spoke of times where he has attended road accident victims whilst awaiting an ambulance.
“A man fell from a building and was unconscious,” he said. “We waited for two hours for a chopper – the man subsequently died.
“With one pair of hands it’s almost impossible; it makes a significant difference to a person’s chance of survival if there is more than one pair of hands.”
He said on average he has attended incidents three times a year over the past 15 years, waiting for the timely arrival of an ambulance.
Harking back to one of the reasons Ann and John McLean have put so much time into seeking the ambulance station, Ms McLean cites a letter written in 2012 by then NSW health minister Jillian Skinner.
“I am advised by the Ambulance Service that there are no plans to establish an ambulance station in Iluka at this stage, as the Iluka area is adequately supported by Ambulance Paramedics stationed at Maclean and Yamba,” she wrote.
“Additional crews can be deployed as required from surrounding regions, and if required, the emergency medical retrieval helicopter services at either Lismore or the Gold Coast can be tasked to Iluka.”
The people who signed the petition disagree.