Celebrating 80 years of Heyfield service

Peter and Gail Lopez with Ambulance Victoria Heyfield Team Manager Sandra Tozer. Photos: Contributed

LOCALS are being invited to Heyfield this Sunday, July 9 as the town celebrates the 80th anniversary of its Ambulance Victoria branch.

Incumbent Team Manager Sandra Tozer said eight decades was a remarkable milestone for such a small branch.

“The branch has grown from its humble beginnings to become the thriving ambulance branch that it is today, with a full-time paramedic and more than 20 Ambulance Community Officers,” Ms Tozer said.

The Heyfield and District Ambulance League was created in 1943 when the Maffra Shire Council donated a 1927 Ford Dodge to be used as its inaugural vehicle. This began a community-driven project to provide an ambulance service to Maffra and Rosedale Shire residents.

The service cost each member a grand fee of five shillings – which equates to around $20 in today’s money, once inflation is considered – per year.

Following local lobbying, the branch gained its first full-time paramedic and team manager, or TM, in 2014.

“While the Ambulance League was created in 1943, the first branch wasn’t opened until 1945,” Ms Tozer said

“Located where the swimming pool is now, it was relocated to the northwest corner of the middle oval in 1964.

“The Gordon Street premises opened in 1982.”

A new Heyfield ambulance station is opened by Hugh Stagg and Doug Woodhouse from the East Gippsland Ambulance Service, alongside Dr Patricia Wilkinson (right) on September 18, 1982.

The many highlights of the branch, according to Ms Tozer, have included the purchase of a first-aid kit in 1944 and a notable rescue at Lake Tali Karng in November 1962.

“Lights and sirens were fitted to our vehicle for the first time in 1967, before the Ambulance League was amalgamated with the East Gippsland Ambulance Service in 1974,” she explained.

She said among the incredible changes in medication, practices and technology over the years, at times Heyfield has led the way.

“In 2012, we started a trial in advanced pain relief provided by First Responders who assist patients before the arrival of a paramedic,” Ms Tozer said.

“This is crucial in regional and rural areas where First Responders are often first on scene.

“The trial was successful and the practice was implemented across the state, where it is now part of standard care for patients.”

The Heyfield & District Ambulance Service vehicle – a Holden station wagon – in 1958.

The Heyfield Branch will open its doors this Sunday (July 9) to share memories of the past eight decades.

A vintage ambulance will be on display, alongside historical health equipment, mannequins, and uniforms.

‘Call, Push, Shock’, CPR and first aid sessions will be offered, with the AV community education van also stopping by.

The event will be an opportunity for those in the community to give thanks to the branch and its paramedics, with some individuals already doing so in the lead up to the celebration.

Local residents Gail and Peter Lopez made a generous donation to the branch – a device that assists in locating hard-to-find veins, allowing cannulation for emergency medications and fluids in more challenging cases.

Ms Lopez has required AV’s services on several occasions, and said she was extremely grateful for the help she has received over the years, particularly living in an isolated location.

Ms Tozer said the equipment was a welcome addition.

The anniversary celebrations start at 10am, with speeches from 11am.

The Heyfield Ambulance Branch is located at 1 Gordon St, Heyfield.