AMBULANCE CALL: Residents in the Alstonville and Wollongbar area are calling for the permanent ambulance station. Currently the first responders are the Fire &Rescue NSW retained firefighters.
AMBULANCE CALL: Residents in the Alstonville and Wollongbar area are calling for the permanent ambulance station. Currently the first responders are the Fire &Rescue NSW retained firefighters. Trevor Veale

The town that's crying out for an ambulance station

ASSIGNING an ambulance to the Alstonville Fire Station could be the solution to ensuing a speedy response to medical emergencies in the area.

According to Alstonville locals, while the town's retained Fire & Rescue crew operate an outstanding Community First Responder squad, who do an amazing job, a permanent ambulance station was required.

Ballina mayor David Wright who lives in the area, said the cost of building a new ambulance facility for the Alstonville and Wollongbar area would run into millions.

But he reckons having at least one ambulance with permanent staff assigned on duty at the local fire station could be the cost-effective solution.

"A good temporary solution might be to assign an ambulance and crew to the Alstonville Fire Station to provide support for the Community First Responders," he said,

"Over the years we have asked about having an ambulance service here and have made enquires but have been told it's not going to happen.

"We have been told an ambulance from Lismore can make the journey in 12 minutes, which is why we now have Fire & Rescue NSW providing the service."

According to a Fire & Rescue NSW spokeswoman, over the past seven years, firefighters from Alstonville fire station have undertaken the role of Community First Responder in the region, supporting NSW Ambulance and other emergency services by providing assistance when a medical emergency occurs.

"All firefighters are trained in advanced first aid, oxygen resuscitation, use of automatic external defibrillators and basic patient assessment," she said.

"Additionally, Fire and Rescue NSW is part of the Community First Responder program, run by NSW Ambulance in some towns across NSW (and) this program provides firefighters with additional training to provide life-saving intervention until paramedics arrive."

But the growing population of the 2477 postcode was a big concern, Cr Wright said.

"Wollongbar is scheduled to have another 600 houses in the next 10 years," he said.

"Alstonville will probably see more blocks being sub-divided with second homes built and soon there will be another 2000 people living up here."

Cr Wright who has lived in the area for more than 40 years, stressed the local retained firefighters did an excellent job.

But he said more residents and the increase of heavy traffic on Ballina Rd could prevent ambulances from arriving as needed.

"The amount of traffic on the Alstonville by-pass and coming out of Lismore can make it difficult for an ambulance to get past traffic during peak times," he said.

"I think having an ambulance on-call at the fire station would relieve the firefighters."

However, Ballina Shire Councillor Nathan Willis whose A Ward includes the plateau, disagrees.

"I do think there is a need for a permanent ambulance station in Alstonville," the former aged care nurse said.

"The main issue is the turnover of the retained fire-fighters who are responding to medical incidents."

A report from the NSW Bureau of Health Information, showed Ambulance NSW made 14,345 responses in the Northern Rivers between January and March this year,