Vintage: Ambulance service marks 100 years helping outback Queensland community of Longreach, Australia
Before the Central West Ambulance Service existed, if outback Queenslanders had an emergency, they had to drive themselves to the local hospital. Luckily, a century ago the community decided it was time that changed and in 1919, the Central West Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade (QATB) was established in Longreach. Current Central West Local Ambulance Service superintendent, Gavin Farry, said the closest ambulance had been in Rockhampton. "Prior to that there would have been no service," he said. "The local landowners and local townspeople would have been transporting the sick and injured always to the hospital."
The brigade was run by local ambulance committees which had to fundraise to keep them running. Locals bequeathed funds in their wills but sometimes committees had to get creative. "In rural areas they would mark one beast, either cattle or sheep and when that went to sale, the proceeds of the sale would go towards the ambulance service," Mr Farry said.
Seeing patients at the pub
Due to post-WWI depression, it took two years to raise the money for a purpose-built headquarters so during that time, they worked out of what is now the Commercial Hotel. "It's quite a grand building [and] has quite a bit of history," Farry said. In 1920, the QATB reported they had responded to 182 jobs, with 228 patients being transported. "That says there were a couple of those accidents that had multiple cases," he said.
There were also 222 jobs in the ambulance casualty room, which acted as a first-aid drop-in centre. "You could go to the ambulance station and have a splinter pulled out of your finger, or your eye washed, or a wound dressed," he said.
Standardising care for all, anywhere
In 1991, the local QATB was rolled into the Queensland Ambulance Service, which guaranteed funding. The move meant equal access to the service across the state. "[Before that] if you were a wealthy community you could provide a better service than you could if you didn't have the funds," Farry said. "It's now been standardised, so you'll receive the same standard of treatment in Birdsville as you will in metro Brisbane."
The Central West service runs public health and education programs and over his time there, Farry has seen this lead to a welcome decrease in road accidents and trauma cases.
The centenary is a chance to celebrate its past and acknowledge the ambulance's position as one of Australia's trusted professions.
"The community trusts us in its time of need," Farry said. "We all understand the privilege of being called to people when they're not having their best day [and] that's a very privileged place to be in."
Source: ABC News