We’ve all read about “fly-in-fly-out” miners in this region, but here in Canowindra our ambulance service depends on the same in-out staffing principle to ensure we have a top grade emergency system for our region. According to Station Officer Gary Murphy this system beats the perennial problem of finding qualified staff in regional areas. His paramedics are fulltime ambulance service professionals based in Sydney who come here for shift work of eight days on duty and six days off, and are on-call seven nights a week. “They enable us to provide a service that’s practically 24/7 for the Canowindra region,” he says. Gary himself is of course Canowindra-based, and until he got the posting here four years ago he was four and a half years in Grenfell and manning ambulance services in Sydney, Condobolin, Forbes and Cowra. “Younger people would rather stay in the metro centres,” he says. “Out here the small stations are headed by married couples who choose to live here, raise kids, and become part of the community.” Gary has two ambulances and a rotating team of five officers covering Canowindra and Cargo, Cudal, Gooloogong, Mandurama, Woodstock and even Cowra when required to help. His station’s on call for all emergencies – from road smashes to heart attacks, strokes and trauma cases – but he says “most of our work by far involves nursing home and hospital transfers. In the past, cases of heart attack, strokes and trauma would go to the Canowindra hospital, but now we’re able to rush them straight to the new hospital and cardiac unit in Orange.” Gary reckons the Canowindra service is going to get even better, citing the current NSW Ambulance Reform Plan which is aimed at providing more highly trained intensive care and extended care paramedics — “a higher clinical level of service” — in regional centres.
By Derek Maitland