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Iluka ambulance station: What about us?

Geoff Helisma | When NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro announced that the NSW Government will build an ambulance station in Bungendore, Ann McLean from the Iluka Ambulance Action Group (IAAG) was left wondering: ‘What about us?’ Last year, Ms McLean, her husband John and supporters collected 11,500 signatures calling for an ambulance station in Iluka; a proposition Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis says he “fully supports”. Mr Barilaro, leader of the NSW Nationals, posted on his Facebook page: “WATCH: What happens when a great community, led by great people, rallies.” Mr Barilaro thanks the leader of the campaign, “Deborah Olde, and the petition that allowed 2,000 signatures to back my argument with the Minister for Health to deliver an ambulance station”. Bungendore has a population of around 4,000 people and the new ambulance station will also service Bywong, Wamboin, Captains Flat and the surrounding region. Iluka has a population of 1,718, the median age is 62, and 43 per cent of the population is aged 65 and over, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Meanwhile, according to information that Ms McLean paid for through the GIPA Act, there was a total of 724 ambulance callouts to Iluka and Woombah during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years. After reading about the success of the Bungendore campaign, Ms McLean wrote via email to Mr Gulaptis. “Isn’t that what the residents of Iluka and surrounds are doing,” she asked, referring to Mr Barilaro’s spruiking “a great community, led by great people”. “Surely, if this can come about in other areas, why not Iluka; my question is: ‘Where do you think we go from this point?’” Mr Gulaptis answered Ms McLean’s email, writing, in part: “…without knowing directly about the [Bungendore] campaign it appears on the surface that the decision was not just based on the number of signatures obtained, or the passion within the community, but on the footprint the Ambulance Station would service. “…it appears they would be servicing four communities and outlying areas with a total population well in excess of 8,000 people.” However, Mr Gulaptis assured Ms McLean that he “still fully supports the proposition of an Ambulance Station in Iluka, however, I don’t have any further proposals to progress the situation other than to try and establish a Community First Responder (CFR) team”. He wrote that he is “working with the Ambulance Service to find a suitable date for a community meeting in Iluka to discuss establishing a CFR team”, which is a voluntary scheme. Mr Gulaptis wrote that he would “keep lobbying the Minister for Health on the matter”, but indicated that “unless circumstances change I feel I will get the same response”. “Don’t give up hope, it does take time and we can continue to press for the sake of the community,” he wrote. Ms McLean said she had written to the shadow minister for health and Clarence Valley Council, however, she had not received a response before the Independent’s editorial deadline. She said she would also be writing to Health Minister Brad Hazzard, and encouraged other like-minder people to do the same. With the busy Easter and school holiday period about to start, Ms McLean said: “We request that Minister Hazard visit the area through this period to ascertain for himself why we need an Ambulance Station at Iluka fully staffed by qualified paramedics.”