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It was in 1896 when the residents of Colac first came to realise the potential benefits of Ambulance care, when the Colac township fundraised for the purchase of an Ashford litter Ambulance. Prior to this time, persons requiring medical care in the township of Colac and the surrounding districts would rely on family or local persons to transport the sick and injured to hospital by horse and cart.  Only after arriving at Hospital would medical aid be given by trained nurses.  On rare occasions, where injuries prevented the   movement of the patient, would the Doctor attend that accident site.

Colac Fire Station 1896

In 1896, the Colac township received delivery of itís Ashford Litter. This two wheeled hand pushed cart with itís springed suspension system, provided a single canvas stretcher. The luxury of an optional cover provided protection to the patient from Colacís ranging weather conditions. The Litter was operated by the local Police trained in the basic skills of first-aid and bandaging.  Activation of the Police Constable was by a member of the public running into the Police Station and requesting help.  Due to the speed of the Ashford Litter being limited to the walking pace of the Police Constable, itís use was limited to the Colac township and rarely did it leave the town boundaries. With no space available at the Police Station to store the Litter, the Colac Fire Brigade came to the rescue and allowed the Litter to be stored at the newly built Fire Station located in what is now the Murray St Memorial Square. Stored in the small out-house on the right of the main building, the Litter remained in Service until the early 1920ís, providing a limited but valuable service to the community.

Ashford Litter

Whilst the Ashford Litter catered for the sick and injured living in the Colac township, no Ambulance Service was available for emergencies out of town.  Patients continued to be brought to hospital by horse and cart from outlying areas. With funding for ambulance vehicles in the early days extremely limited, Colac residents enlisted the assistance of the districts mail trucks.  Supplied with a canvas stretcher and secured to the floor of the mail truck with a rope, patients would be brought in from outlying areas each afternoon, but only after the mail had been delivered.

 

Dreeite Mail Truck


In 1920, Dr Arthur Brown, a local Colac Doctor began campaigning for a dedicated motorised ambulance to service the town as well as outlying areas.  In 1923, the Colac Progress Association took up the challenge and fundraised £300 for the purchase of a new 1924 Model T Ford. It was equipped with a canvas stretcher and first aid kit, but little else.  The Ambulance was placed under the control of the Colac City Council and stored at the local Manning Motor Garage in Murray St Colac, where it was maintained by Walter Manning, who also was the official driver.  The attendant was usually one of the Boiler Makers or Orderlies from Colac Hospital, who was also trained in basic first aid and bandaging.

Colac's 1924 Model T Ford

In March 1934, the aging Model T Ford was sold off and a second hand 1929 DA Dodge Ambulance was purchased for £150 from Melbourneís Victorian Civil Ambulance Service.  In late 1934, with the death of Walter Manning, tragically killed in a train accident, the Ambulanceís storage was moved to Parr & Spencer Garages of  238-240 Murray St.   The garage owner, Bert Spencer, became the new official Ambulance driver and mechanic, with Colac Hospitalís Boiler Makers and Orderlies remaining as the first aid attendants.  By 1938, the Dodge became unreliable, constantly breaking down, and after a horrific trip to Ballarat with itís maximum speed of only 25 mph, the vehicle went up for sale.

Colac's 1929 DA Dodge

In November 1938, the Colac Council handed over responsibility of the Ambulance to the Colac Hospital and moved the vehicle onto the Hospital grounds on the sight that is now the Hospital's boiler room. The DA Dodge was at the same time replaced with a second hand 1937 Ford V8 purchased from the local butcher at a cost of £340.   Staffing of the Ambulance was mostly by the Hospital Boiler Makers and Orderlies, and equipment remained relatively unchanged other than an enlarged first-aid kit.

Colac's 1937 V8 Ford

By the end of the 1940ís, the workload of the Ambulance had increased to a level that required replacement of the aging Ford.  In 1951, the Colac Community again fundraised for the replacement. A new 1951 Ford Twin Spinner chassis was purchased from McKenzie Motors in Colac.  Additional funding was also received for a purpose designed rear patient compartment, built by the locally owned Batsonís Panel and Body Works.

Colac's 1951 Ford Twin Spinner

On the 1st of May 1959, Geelong & District Ambulance Service (GDAS) with the consent of the Colac City Council took over control of Colac's Ambulance under the proviso that two Ambulances staffed by properly trained Officers be provided on a continuing basis. On 6th May the first full time Ambulance Officer Fred Murgatroyd arrived at Colac.  With him came a new state of the art Ambulance as an addition to the 1951 Ford Twin Spinner already in service.  This new vehicle proudly boasted two way radios for local communication between the Ambulance and Station,  although radio communication to Geelong Control Room was not actually possible and phones remained the method of contact for a number of years. 

Colac's 1959 Mainline (L) with the 1951 Ford Twin Spinner (R)
(Colac's Mainline is currently awaiting restoration)

In June 1959, the GDAS announced that a purpose build Ambulance Station and residence would be built on Hospital property at a cost of £11,642. Building of the Conner St complex began in June 1960 and was completed in December of the same year. The new building provided many facilities including a residence, which the Station Officer was required to live in. It was also expected that the Station Officerís wife would operate the radio when her husband responded to a call, and that she also answered emergency calls from the public. 

                   

The new Conner St Ambulance Station

lThe new station also brought a new Ford F100 Ambulance to replace the twin Spinner, again funded by the Colac community.  A new two week Ambulance training course for all full-time staff meant an increase in skills and resulted in vehicles being fitted out with the latest standards equipment including new oxygen and resuscitation equipment, oxygen powered suction,   traction splints as a addition to the old wooden splints, wheel chairs and lifting frames.

                  

Colac's 1963 F-100 Ambulance
(This vehicle currently awaiting restoration)

Over the next few years, the Colac Station, under the auspices of the GDAS, the Service remained stable and relatively unchanged during the 1960ís and 1970ís other than staff changes.  Radio communications remained poor with phones remaining the main contact to Geelong Control Room.  By the end of the 1970ís, emergency calls continued to be received by the Colac Station, but the phones could now be switched to the Geelong Control Room if the Ambulance was on a call,  leaving the wife free to perform other household duties rather than having to sit by the phone to answer the emergency phone.

Loading Colac's 1972 F-100 Ambulance

With Ambulance Officers still operating as single person responses to emergencies, and often without the ability to be backed up, in 1975 the Station introduced the part time driver/assistants known as ĎCasuals' to assist in treatment and driving.  No formal training was provided until the 1990ís, but Casuals were expected to have a St John first-aid certificate.

In the late 1970ís, training of Ambulance Officers undertook a major review and full-time staff statewide including Colac, began undertaking a three year Associate Diploma Of Health Science course at TAFE.  With a new level of training came a major change in the professionalism of Ambulance Officers and the service they provided resulted.

In 1988 a major government review of the Stateís Ambulance Service was undertaken.  The GDAS was amalgamated with  Warnamboolís Western Ambulance Service to form the South West Ambulance Service (SWAS), doubling the regionís size, although this had little if any impact on Colac's Ambulance service. 

Colac staff in 1993

A further review of Ambulance Service throughout Victoria in 1995 saw the introduction of Mobile Intensive Care Officers (MICA) throughout country Victoria,  and Colac employed it's first MICA Officer. MICA Officers provided a significant increase in the level of patient care by providing multiple advanced skills of intravenous access, intubation, chest needle decompression, and an array of 26 prehospital drugs for a range of medical and trauma conditions.

In the late 1990's, a further review of country Ambulance Services was again undertaken by the Victorian Government, amalgamating five of the six Country Ambulance Services on the 1st May 1999 to form the current Rural Ambulance Victoria (RAV).

In 2001, single Officer crewing of the Ambulances in Colac ceased, with Government funding increasing staff levels of the Branch to five to allow for two officer crewing on all Ambulances.  An Advanced Life Support  (ALS) training program was also introduced to provide an increase in the minimum level of care given.

Staff changes in 2002 proudly saw an increase in the quality of care given to the Colac Community by introducing a MICA Paramedic and ALS Paramedic on each vehicle, bringing Colac's Ambulance Service's to a level equal to the service provided in the Metropolitan areas of Melbourne.

Colac's Conner St station and vehicles

Colac Hospital's redevelopment program began in 2001 requiring the need to demolish the Conner St  Ambulance Station to allow for the new  hospital car park.  As a  result,  the new $1.3 million Complex began construction in Rae St in June 2003 and was completed on the 10th November the same year.  Once again, as in 1890's, the Ambulance was back next to the Fire Station.

Colac's Rae St Ambulance Station in November 2003

On the 1 July 2008, the Victorian Government reformed the State Ambulance Services from three organisations Metropolitan Ambulance Service, Rural Ambulance Service, and Alexandra & District Ambulance Service) into one state-wide service - Ambulance Victoria operating under Metropolitan guidelines.  Funding also allowed for the employment of an additional 8 staff at Colac, bringing staffing levels to 13 full-Time Staff at the time.  The station operated 2 Mercedes 
Sprinters stretcher Ambulances and a Sedan at the time of the Amalgamation, attending over 1100 calls in its final year under RAV.

RAV - Colac staff in January 2006

 

 

 

 
 
 
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