NELSON BAY AMBULANCE STATION
Mr CRAIG BAUMANN
(Port Stephens) [1.31 p.m.]: This afternoon I pass comment on the proposed construction of a new Nelson Bay ambulance facility. In the 2007 budget the New South Wales State Government announced that it would undertake planning for a new Nelson Bay ambulance station as part of a $14.4 million refurbishment package that will result in new ambulance stations opening in Dubbo, Auburn, Liverpool, Port Macquarie and Ryde. The New South Wales Government has provided only for planning towards such stations in both Nelson Bay and Deniliquin. At this stage, almost 12 months on from the announcement, the Port Stephens community remains in the dark about what shape the proposed new station will take.
I have been informed that those responsible for overseeing the construction of a new ambulance station in my region are leaning towards a site adjacent to the Tomaree Community Hospital—which was known as the Nelson Bay Polyclinic before the Government changed its name as part of a cynical marketing campaign. I have also been informed that a new ambulance station might be up and running by June 2009. If that is the case, the clock is ticking for the community to have its say about the proposed new site for the ambulance station. It is unreasonable for the Tomaree community to be kept in the dark about this matter. No-one knows the region like the people who live there. The bean counters in Sydney and Newcastle who are responsible for deciding on the location of a new ambulance station are not locals and without thorough community consultation could not possibly have a grasp of the unique challenges that administering emergency services in this region presents.
The proposed site is inappropriate for a new ambulance station for several reasons. Commonsense dictates that an ambulance station should be located as near to the local hospital as possible. But senior Department of Health figures might have neglected to inform the ambulance station project planners that Tomaree Community Hospital is not a hospital. The overwhelming majority of patients need to be transported to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for emergency procedures and for nearly all surgery. It is therefore imperative that a new ambulance station be constructed as near to main arterial roads as possible to facilitate the swift transfer of patients from the Tomaree Peninsula to John Hunter Hospital as easily as possible.
The preferred site would be somewhere near the corner of Gan Gan Road and Nelson Bay Road. This intersection is close to the geographic centre of the area that the station would service and is linked to most parts of the Tomaree by arterial roads. It is nearly equidistant to Soldiers Point, Salamander, Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, Anna Bay and Bobs Farm. This would also make an ideal location for a future NSW Fire Brigades station. Ambulances operating from the comparatively remote Tomaree Community Hospital would run a maze of residential streets, increasing response times and putting lives of patients and road users at risk.
I reiterate: No public announcement concerning the future of the Nelson Bay ambulance station has been made. What little information I do have has been hard to come by. I take this opportunity to remind the Minister for Health that my door is always open and I would relish the opportunity to take her for a drive through Nelson Bay to show her the logistical difficulties that her department will face in making a new ambulance station a reality. With the next budget looming on the horizon I hope the Government will furnish the people of Port Stephens with more details as to how and when this new ambulance station will come to fruition. When one considers that of the $14.4 million allocated for station upgrades last year only $80,000 was spent on planning for Nelson Bay, it is not surprising that little progress has been made. Clearly more needs to be done; we are moving ahead but not in the right direction.