Ambulance services in and around Mullumbimby are being compromised by the ongoing closure of the town’s ambulance station and the use of its paramedics as ‘fill-ins’ for towns outside the Shire, a local paramedic says.
The paramedic, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Echo that the Mullumbimby ambulance station on Gordon Street had been out of action since the first round of flooding.
Shut since February
‘The station’s been shut since the February floods,’ the paramedic said.
‘Only minor repairs are needed, but work hasn’t started.’
The paramedic said that the Mullumbimby ambulance crews had been working out of the Byron Bay station.
And while located there, they were frequently being used by the ambulance control centre as additional services for places like Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Heads.
This limited the availability of ambulance services in and around Mullumbimby.
‘We are used as area fillers,’ the paramedic said.
‘This is happening regularly.’
The paramedic said that a temporary location within Mullumbimby could be found to accommodate the ambulance crew until the station was repaired.
This could take the form of a community building or even a normal house.
Local Greens MP Tamara Smith said the revelations about the Mullumbimby station were ‘very disturbing’.
‘It’s not good enough that five months down the track we don’t have any movement on Mullum repairs,’ Ms Smith said.
‘I’ve made some enquiries about that this morning.’
Ms Smith said the concerns were part of a broader challenge facing ambulance services across the region.
‘A big issue that we have in the Northern Rivers is that the NSW Ambulance Service is using vehicles and ambos for patient transfers,’ Ms Smith said.
‘You’ll have two paramedics taking someone to John Flynn Hospital. To say that they’re overqualified to take someone in a noncritical state to a hospital is a massive understatement.
‘We’ve already got so few ambos in the community… but they are then out of action for at least three hours, because they have to stay with the patient in emergency, and can’t leave until they’ve transitioned their patients into care’.
Ms Smith said paramedics were also having to attend non-life threatening incidents such as acute mental health incidents because there wasn’t any other help.
In a written response to The Echo, the NSW Ambulance Service said the Mullumbimby station had suffered ‘extensive structural damage’ during the floods in February/March.
‘NSW Ambulance has engaged a central government agency to project manage the repairs to Mullumbimby station, which must be deemed safe to enable paramedics to work from there again,’ a spokesperson said.
‘NSW Ambulance locates ambulance resources to maximise emergency response cover. We have a mobile, dynamic workforce with the closest available ambulance dispatched to any emergency.’