WITH A nod to the past and a joyful snapshot of the present, Kempsey celebrated the official opening today of a $3.3 million state-of-the-art ambulance station in Tozer St, next to the revamped hospital.
Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight and local MP Melinda Pavey, Kempsey mayor Liz Campbell and emergency services personnel were on hand for the christening of the new centre which 17 staff will call home, and it includes specialist teaching rooms and a mechanical workshop to service a regional vehicle fleet.
Kempsey station manager Allan Simpkins said the new centre had the potential to eventually operate 24 hours a day (the present hours are 7am to 11pm – with officers on call from 11pm to 7am).
Mr Simpkins said the mechanical workshop would cater for a vehicle fleet from Taree in the south to Woolgoolga in the north.
The new facility is just the fourth station in the history of Kempsey. The previous station in Belgrave St was built in 1947 – and had its own story to tell.
Mr Simpkins said that station had been funded entirely by public subscription, and it was the first country station to have its own ambulance radio network. In the great flood of 1949 – in which several lives were lost – Mr Simpkins said wooden surf boats were tied up to the telegraph poles outside the station.
NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said while he was delighted to be on hand for the opening of the new station, it was but bricks and mortar – “what makes it alive is the people”.
Mrs Pavey said the Kempsey station was the first to be opened in the area since South West Rocks in 2001, while a new facility at Wauchope should be operational in the next two years.
The Member for Oxley joked that on the list of most trusted professions, paramedics are “right up there, while politicians are way down here”.
The official party then took a tour of the new station which ended comically with Mrs Pavey practising CPR on a dummy to the timing of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees (parodied in a video currently going viral on Facebook).