Heyfield’s 4WD ambulance

SIRENS are set to whoop and squeal in Heyfield as the town’s Ambulance Victoria branch becomes home to the Complex Patient Ambulance Vehicle (CPAV) which was housed at Maffra for more than a year.

The CPAV can carry heavier loads than regular ambulances and handle more complex patients, carrying equipment that isn’t kept on other ambulances.

With four-wheel drive capability CPAVs can travel deeper into remote areas, making it the pride and joy of any regional fleet.

The sharing of the resource, by moving it from Maffra to Heyfield, is a major part of the Heyfield branch extension, improving the resources of the area.

In addition to the CPAV, the Heyfield branch has been extended with a newly-built transport shed, to be officially opened in January, and plans are in place to recruit 10 new Ambulance Community Officers (ACOs), to help the branch fulfil rostering requirements needed for the CPAV vehicle and community response.

ACOs are paid volunteers who assist paramedics in providing pre-hospital care to those who phone for an ambulance.

They have advanced first aid skills, specialising in emergency care.

ACOs also play a vital role in transporting patients to and from hospital and other health care appointments.

According to Heyfield ACO Cherry Wake, it’s a job that can fit into any lifestyle.

“It’s amazing for your own development,” she said.

“(It’s a job that) allows me to use my brain and just deal with different circumstances and situations.”

Fellow ACO Traci Grogon agreed.

“It’s good to do your bit for your community,” Ms Grogon said.

“Helping the community gives you a sense of pride as well,” she added.

Heyfield team manager Sandra Tozer said morale at Heyfield was good.

“We’ve got a really motivated team here,” she said, encouraging members of the community interested in becoming ACOs to attend an information session at the branch from 6pm next Monday.

“Anyone from the community that’s interested in becoming an ACO should come along and have a look at the branch and at the equipment,” Ms Tozer said.

“We’ll have current ACOs here to answer their questions and see if they’d like to join the team.”

According to Ms Tozer, becoming an ACO was just the beginning, with successful members later able to apply to take part in a rural sponsored degree program.

“It’s not just a one end job,” Ms Toser said.

“(ACOs) can continue with their education and they can use the skills, and first aid certificates, outside Ambulance Victoria,” she added.

Successful applicants initially undertake 96 hours of training, with a further 30 hours training each year to keep their knowledge and skills current.

ACOs are required to be available for a minimum of 20 hours per month which may involve after hours and weekend rostering.

ACOs are remunerated for training sessions, emergency and transportation call outs, which they attend.

The next ACO course will begin in March.

For more information or to register interest, people can phone Heyfield team leader Mark Cox on 0407 262 201 or Ms Tozer on 0408 990 970.