Clarence Valley Independent

Unpicking Iluka’s ambulance station promise

Geoff Helisma |

Late last year Deputy Premier John Barilaro told the Iluka community that their promised ambulance station “is not an election commitment; win, lose or draw, the only thing that will stop this is another government that doesn’t want to build a station here”.

With the election campaign in full swing, the Independent sought to ascertain whether or not the promise held true and what might happen if the Coalition is defeated at the polls.

Asked when the project’s funding would be included in a future NSW Government budget and whether or not it could be funded from a ‘general pot’ of money earmarked for infrastructure, such as Restart NSW, incumbent Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said in an emailed response: “NSW Ambulance has started early works needed to build the new Iluka Ambulance Station.

“Funding for construction will be accounted for in the budget.”

The Independent asked Labor candidate Trent Gilbert: The current caretaker government has stated it has commenced early work on the project, what assurances can Labor give to the Iluka community that it will expediently continue the work commenced by the former government?

The Independent also asked: What assurances can Labor give that the ambulance station will be adequately staffed once it is built?

Mr Gilbert wrote in an emailed response: “If the Nationals have put money in the budget for the Iluka ambulance station of course I will commit to ensuring it gets built.

“…I won’t try to blackmail communities into voting for them by only promising projects if their candidate gets elected.”

Mr Gilbert’s statement then referred to NSW Labor’s announced health policies: employing 1,500 extra paramedics in NSW, some of whom, he said “will come to our local districts”.

Mr Gilbert also said that “introducing nurse to patient ratios in B and C level hospitals” – Grafton and Maclean are level C hospitals – “will take a huge load off the paramedics”.

He said Labor’s plan to “increase mental health … services will also make a huge difference”.

“A considerable amount of work currently undertaken by both the paramedics and the police relates to the poor access to mental health services of our communities,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, the NSW branch of the Australian Paramedics Association (APA) is not so sure funding has been allocated to the project.

“Paramedics in the Lower Clarence … were under the impression a new ambulance station staffed by full time professional paramedics was to be built in Iluka, irrespective of the result of the upcoming state election,” APA spokesperson Tim McEwen wrote in his response to the Independent.

“As at 26 February 2019, Health Infrastructure or the Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration (RAIR) unit of NSW Ambulance had not received notification from NSW Health or NSW Ambulance that there were any plans or intentions to establish an ambulance presence in Iluka.

“Therefore resources are unlikely to have been allocated to planning.

“NSW Ambulance has also informed us that any new station commissioned prior to June 2023 will fall under the State Wide Enhancement Project (SWEP) delegation, with any associated staffing required to be drawn from the Sector’s existing allocation.

“So locally it would be at the expense of Yamba, Casino, Byron Bay, Kingscliff, Murwillumbah and/or Tweed Heads.

“In Iluka’s case, this would mean an establishment of 12 paramedics.

“Given the predicted workload, local delegates believe staffing of five would actually suffice (similar to Yamba), leaving a greater number of positions to be used more effectively elsewhere in the sector (covering Grafton to Tweed Heads).”

Ann and John Maclean, who are the driving force behind the campaign, asked RAIR “if Iluka has been included in the RAIR planning for this year” however, RAIR wrote in an email that it could not respond due to the caretaker period for the NSW election beginning on March 1, “but [we] will endeavour to do so as soon as we are able”.

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