New South Wales Ambulance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
NSW Ambulance
Flag of the New South Wales Ambulance Service.svg
Ambulance Service of NSW logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed1 April 1895 as Civil Ambulance and Transport Brigade
Preceding agencies
  • Civil Ambulance and Transport Brigade (1895 – 1904)
  • Civil Ambulance and Transport Corps (1904 – 1921)
  • NSW Ambulance Transport Service Board (1921 – 1977)
  • Ambulance Service of New South Wales (1977 – 2014)
JurisdictionNew South Wales
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Mr Dominic Morgan, Chief Executive
Parent agencyNew South Wales Department of Health
Key documents
NSW Ambulance in Wagga Wagga

New South Wales Ambulance, an agency of the Ministry of Health of the New South Wales Government, is the statutory provider of pre-hospital emergency care and ambulance services in the state of New South Wales, Australia.

Established pursuant to the Ambulance Services Act, 1976 (NSW) and operating within the Health Services Act, 1997 (NSW), the service aims to provide clinical care and health related transport services to over 6.3 million people in New South Wales (NSW), distributed across an area of 801,600 square kilometres (309,500 sq mi).[1]

The service employs more than 4,000 staff, who work from 266 locations across the State, operating approximately 1500 vehicles, of which over 1000 are front line ambulance vehicles responding to emergency, non-emergency, aeromedical, rescue and retrieval services. Around one million responses are made by the service each year. The NSW Ambulance road fleet travels approximately 44,000,000 kilometres per year.[1]


NSW Government Railway Ambulance Corps wagon in 1890.

The first recognised ambulance service in New South Wales, known as the Civil Ambulance and Transport Brigade, began on 1 April 1895, however this was pre-dated by the NSW Government Railway Ambulance and First Aid Corps which was set up by Railway Commissioner Goodchap in 1885.[2] The first civil ambulance station was a borrowed police station in Railway Square in Sydney staffed by two permanent officers. Patients were transported on hand-held stretchers and handlitters.[1]

The Brigade was a dedicated community-based organisation, operating the first horsedrawn ambulance in 1899 and first motor vehicle in 1912, both donated to the Brigade by the public. Radio controlled vehicles commenced operation in 1937, a rescue service in 1941, a training school in 1961 and air ambulance in 1967. Advanced life support and intensive care vehicles were introduced in 1976.

Prior to 1976, the Service was known as the NSW Ambulance Transport Service Board, and it was not funded by the NSW State Government, but was self-reliant, with Ambulance Officers having to conduct regular fundraising activities usually weekly and sign people up to Ambulance subscriptions. Many people who would otherwise attend their local doctor in recent times, would attend an Ambulance station for treatment for minor injuries as it did not cost them anything.[citation needed]

Ambulance types[edit]

As NSW operate a variety of emergency and nonemergency vehicles across the state including a number of specialised vehicles such as over-snow vehicles. These vehicles are imported and then fitted out and engineered by Emergency Transport Technology, which employs auto electricians, diesel mechanics, fitters and turners, bodybuilders and other tradesmen to build emergency vehicles, aside from ambulances, these include long-wheelbase Mercedes Benz bomb squad vans and Volkswagen T5 Transporter Police vans.[3][4]

  • Emergency medical care Ambulances
Mercedes Benz Sprinter
Volkswagen T5 Transporter

In Urban areas these are Mercedes-Benz 315 Sprinters whereas more rural areas and country towns tend to use Volkswagen T5 Transporters. Hard to access areas such as bush or mountainous terrain may require specialist vehicles such as the Toyota Landcruiser Troopcarrier.

  • Rescue Trucks

Typically custom body Hino trucks. Ambulance rescue vehicles are equipped with a vast array of equipment including motorised hydraulic tools, air tools, hand held global positioning satellite units, fibre optic search scopes, portable atmospheric testing units, an inflatable boat, lighting and breathing apparatus. ASNSW have since relinquished their rescue capabilities within metropolitan areas, and FRNSW now covers their areas in order to reduce duplication of services.

  • Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPV)

MPV's are currently based across Sydney and are used to transport patients whose weight exceeds specification requirements for a standard ambulance. They also used for medical retrievals and hospital transfers when specialist equipment, such as ECMO, do not fit in a standard ambulance.

  • Over Snow Vehicles

The NSW Ambulance fleet of vehicles at Perisher Valley Ambulance Station include a Hägglunds all terrain vehicle, a Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug oversnow vehicle, two Yamaha snowmobiles, a 4WD Quad Bike and trailer and a 4WD Mercedes.

  • Special Casualty Access Team (SCAT)

SCAT use a variety of specialised 4WD type vehicles as do Supervisors and Commanders.

  • Air Wing

Seven Beechcraft King Air pressurised twin-engined turboprop aircraft, owned and operated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, are used on Air Wing operations. Three Beechcraft B200 King Air and two Beechcraft B350 King Air aircraft are based in Sydney. An additional two Beechcraft B200 King Air aircraft are based in Dubbo to cover North West and Central West NSW. There are also 14 helicopters currently operating across the State, 12 Category 1 helicopters and 2 Category 2 helicopters.

  • Motorcycles

3 Yamaha FJR1300A motorcycles are utilised within Sydney Ambulance Central to provide quick response in Sydney CBD as well as for special events. These motorcycles, ridden by Intensive Care Paramedics carry all the equipment necessary to respond to the most urgent of calls. The riders undergo training in operating the vehicles alongside their NSW Police motorcycle counterparts. As there is usually only one of these vehicles operating at any time within NSW their callsign is Responder 1.

Ambulance Staffing[edit]

The majority of standard NSW Ambulance Ambulances are staffed by 2 paramedics. These paramedics can perform tasks including manual defibrillation and 3 and 12 lead ECGs. NSW Ambulance is one of the first ambulance services to roll out Lifepak 15 defib/monitors to all ambulances.) Paramedics also carry out IV skills, airway management, drugs etc. Intensive care paramedics staff rapid response vehicles and regular ambulances, they have a higher skill level and are often part of the ambulance service for 5–10 years prior to reaching this level. The ASNSW has also introduced an Extended care paramedic role. These paramedics are veterans of the ambulance services and don't usually respond to "000" (emergency) calls, but take on more of a "GP" type approach. They can prescribe certain medications, change patient catheters, "reset" dislocated bones and joints etc. The ASNSW also employs other types of staff as mentioned above, SCAT, Paramedic rescue and Medical Physicians for large-scale emergencies.

All Helicopter operations include minimum staffing of a specialist emergency physician, intensivist, or anaesthetist; in addition to a SCAT paramedic and a two person flight crew (pilot and navigator).

Response Times[edit]

The NSW Ambulance operates four control centres that manage incoming Triple Zero ("000") emergency calls. In 2014/15, response time performance for life-threatening cases (classified 1a) was 7.65 minutes across NSW, against a target of 10 minutes.[5]

Specialist Sections[edit]

NSW Ambulance has several highly trained, specialised and equipped sections to provide medical care and response in diverse situations around the state. Some of these more specialised sections/units include the following:

Rescue operations[edit]

Rescue Unit

In 1961 the NSW Ambulance commenced rescue operations when the St. George-Sutherland District Ambulance Service purchased a specially equipped rescue vehicle known at the time as the "Res-Q-Van", or "Q Van".[6] Jim Smith, a former rigger at the Port Kembla Steelworks and Station Officer at Rockdale ambulance station, became the first ambulance officer to be trained for rescue work by members of the existing Police Rescue Squad.[6]

Eight metropolitan Ambulance Rescue units were dissolved in 2008 and staff redeployed to other areas of the Ambulance Service (such as SCAT and Special Operations) with their areas of rescue responsibility now covered by Fire and Rescue NSW.[7]

Currently NSW Ambulance operates six primary rescue units in rural NSW and employs over 200 rescue officers. The rural stations are located at Rutherford, Tamworth, Singleton, Cowra, Bomaderry and Wagga Wagga.[8] Officers are trained for all forms of rescue including, road crash, vertical, confined space, swift water, trench, industrial, technical and domestic to name a few.[4] They learn navigation skills, four wheel driving, urban search and rescue, and chemical biological and radiological procedures. Rescue training commences with the recruitment of up to 12 officers, who are selected to undergo a rigorous six week training course. On successful completion of the course, officers are then rostered to rescue units where training continues with a minimum eight hours of structured training per month. Officers are also required to undergo a recertification program. Ambulance rescue vehicles are equipped with a vast array of equipment including motorised hydraulic tools, air tools, hand held global positioning satellite units, fibre optic search scopes, portable atmospheric testing units, inflatable boat, lighting and breathing apparatus.[4]

Special Operations Team[edit]

The Special Operations Team (SOT) was created in 2009 to ensure the compatibility of Ambulance operations, disaster planning and special operations in line with state and national arrangements. SOT officers are highly trained in vertical access (cliff and building), the use of breathing apparatus including fully encapsulated gas suits, CBR, confined space, bushcraft, navigation and offroad driving, swift water, helicopter awareness and multi-agency training. They also provide clinical support to Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police Force specialist units including Tactical Operations Unit, Police Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit and Public Order and Riot Squad.

Special Operations Teams deploy to multi-casualty incidents and disasters. While other agencies may be trained to do similar, the very important distinction is the staff of NSW Ambulance also provide life saving medical intervention to those who are lost, trapped or in a precarious situation. This is especially important as Fire and Rescue NSW personnel are generally Basic Life Support (BLS) trained hence not being trained to provide acceptable levels of professional clinical care.[9]

Typical Special Operations Specialised Response Unit vehicle.

SOT officer are trained and equipped from various Ambulance units for the following incident types:

Although performing roles traditionally serviced by SCAT Paramedics, SOT was developed to provide clinical support to the Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (F&RNSW) and the NSW Police Force State Protection Group (SPG) and Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS).[4]

Special Casualty Access Team (SCAT)[edit]

The Special Casualty Access Team (SCAT) was first formed in 1986, from the need for paramedic ambulance officers to be able to provide high quality pre-hospital care to patients wherever they are.[4] The Service currently has sixty SCAT officers throughout NSW. The roles of SCAT are many and varied including: medical support to the various rescue agencies, specialist police units (such as the State Protection Group) and fire brigades in Urban Search and Rescue / Hazmat; bushfires and urban search and rescue; working on Rescue and medical retrieval helicopters; and accessing and treating patients in caves, canyons, mines, and on cliff ledges. SCAT officers are self-sufficient and often ‘camp out’ with their patients when weather or operational conditions dictate a need to ‘stay put’ for a period (at times up to 24 hours without support). 'Core' SCAT skills focuses on safety and personal attributes (resilience, adaptability, teamwork & leadership) which is assessed under a range of testing conditions during an eight-week course.

SCAT officers are highly trained with a clear focus on patient access and providing ICP level medical care in hostile environments and throughout the extrication process which is provided by the accredited rescue unit for that area (Police, NSWF&R, NSWSES, VRA).[4]

Ambulance Aeromedical Division[edit]

The Air Ambulance

The Air Ambulance Service of NSW was established in 1967 with a single Beechcraft Queen Air. More Queen Airs were gradually added so that by 1978 four were operational; these aircraft were owned and operated by East-West Airlines on behalf of the Service. One aircraft was destroyed by fire at Dubbo in 1982 and a fifth Queen Air was added to replace it.[10][11] In 1985 a fleet modernisation programme began when the first two of four Beechcraft B200C Super King Airs were purchased to replace the Queen Airs.[10] In 2003 one of the B200Cs was written off following an accident at Coffs Harbour Airport. The aircraft was involved in a CFIT accident; briefly impacting the sea during an instrument approach before making an emergency landing on two remaining wheels.[12] By that time a second re-equipment programme was underway; the remaining three aircraft were replaced that year and in 2004 with four modified B200 King Airs.[13] The latest re-equipment programme in 2012 saw the fixed wing fleet upgraded to seven aircraft comprising both Beechcraft B200 and B350 King Air aircraft. The Air Ambulance base facility is located at Sydney Airport and consists of an aircraft hangar with a light maintenance facility, road ambulance bay, patient care facilities, administration and an area for aircraft parking.[4]

The role of the Air Ambulance Service is to provide long distance transport while ensuring the continuation of the patient's medical and nursing care between referring and receiving hospitals. The aircraft becomes the extension of the general hospital ward, Intensive Care Unit, Coronary Care Unit, Labour Ward, Nursery etc.

Air Ambulance operates both a 24-hour emergency service and a routine service. The clinical condition of a patient determines if the transfer is on an urgent or routine basis. An urgent response is provided for patients who require immediate transport, for the clinical management of, for example, multiple trauma, labour complications, acute cardiac cases. A routine response is provided for those patients who are stable and are scheduled for the next routine or elective flight to the area or receiving hospital.

Helicopter operations[edit]

Helicopter retrieval incorporates both pre-hospital rescue and interhospital transfer services across New South Wales and the ACT. NSW Ambulance, through NSW Health, has contracted six medical rescue providers to provide emergency air rescue and air transfer services. Each contractor is designated a region of NSW and has the option of providing more than one helicopter to their region.

Helicopters operate from Sydney, Orange, Canberra and Wollongong under contract with Toll. The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service operate aircraft out of Newcastle, Tamworth and Lismore. All aircraft that service New South Wales are AW139. Other Sydney-based helicopter services like CareFlight International with (2 BK 117 and 1 Bell 412) took over newborn and paediatric transport from Child Flight also work closely with the Ambulance Aeromedical Division.

All Medical Retrieval and Aeromedical (Air Ambulance & Helicopter) operations throughout NSW are coordinated by a centralised facility, the Ambulance Service Aeromedical Operations Centre which is also located in Sydney.

NSW Health Emergency Management Unit[edit]

Established in 2003, the NSW Health & Ambulance Service Emergency Management Unit (formerly known as the Counter Disaster Unit - CDU) consists of specialised NSW Health and Ambulance Service personnel working together to co-ordinate aspects of health disaster planning and response, including supporting the health aspects of major events within NSW. The Unit is responsible for disaster and emergency planning, preparedness and aspects of recovery action across NSW Health.[4] In 2011, the Emergency Management Unit was amalgamated with the Aeromedical & Medical Retrieval Division to form the new Ambulance Statewide Services Division.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About us". Ambulance Service of NSW. Government of New South Wales. 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  2. ^ Longworth, Jim; Newland, John R. (October 2008). The NSW Government Railways' Ambulance and First Aid Corps. Australian Railway History. pp. 315–322.
  3. ^ "About us: Vehicles". Ambulance Service of NSW. Government of New South Wales. 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "About us: Emergency Operations". Ambulance Service of NSW. Government of New South Wales. 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Response Times". Ambulance Service of NSW. Government of New South Wales. 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b "The Q Van: 1961 Jeep FC-170 Rescue Truck in Australia". The CJ3B Page. Kingston, Canada: Derek Redmond. 26 February 2011. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  7. ^ "Our Battle To Retain Rescue". Save Our Rescue. Loadednet. 2011. Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Our Rescue Stations". Save Our Rescue. Loadednet. 2011. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Cookson, Bert (1986). The Historic Civil Aircraft Register of Australia VH-AAA to VH-AZZ. Toombul, Queensland: AustairData (privately published).
  11. ^ "Air Ambulance Service". Agency Detail. State Records Authority of New South Wales. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  12. ^ "Raytheon Aircraft B200C, VH-AMR". Aviation safety investigations & reports. Australian Transport Safety Bureau. 23 November 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  13. ^ Reid, Gordon (January–February 2003). "Traffic". Australian Aviation. Australia: Aerospace Publications (191): 72. ISSN 0813-0876.

External links[edit]