For one Wagga man the memories of the city’s first ambulance station are steeped in pride.
Tony Loth’s father Mick, built and kick-started the Wagga District Ambulance Station on Johnston Street as the superintendent in 1929 – a 3000-pound community-funded initiative.
Almost 90-years on, Father Loth – a Catholic priest – was transported from hospital, to witness the official opening of the recently operational Fernleigh Road facility.
The construction of the state-government funded $4.4 million ambulance station at Turvey Park was completed in October 2016, with paramedics taking up residence in February.
Since the big move, Wagga’s paramedics have been called to between 1200 and 1500 emergencies every month.
The “state-of-the-art facility” on Wednesday hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the regional win.
Father Loth said the station had come a long way since the his dad – the superintendents – days of wood and canvas stretchers, stretchers bearers, honorary bearers and home-renovated vehicles.
“My father was head-hunted from Queensland to get the station off the ground,” Father Loth said.
“The whole service is completely different now.”
He said it made him feel sad hearing officials, like Ambulance NSW Commissioner Dominic Morgan, referred to the old station as being now useless and obsolete.
“It’s a heritage part of Wagga,” Father Loth said. “It was built and operated completely by Wagga people themselves.”
The 82-year-old said he could remember injured residents coming to the old station and some had even brought their pets.
“I used to ride with my dad in the ambulance as a boy,” Father Loth said.
“I would sit on a cushion on the bench seat with my feet on the medical box – the medical kit at the time … you wouldn’t be able to do that now of course.”
Ambulance NSW Wagga station now boasts 14 ambulance vehicle bays, a zone office, a fleet maintenance workshop and advanced training complex for paramedic education and practice.
The crew consists of 26 paramedics, three mechanics, three educators and a support officer, “with room for more”.
“Ambulance officers were minimal compared to today,” Father Loth said.
“There was only one attendant to take the calls and they had to try and find someone else to help carry the stretcher.”
Commissioner Morgan said the new facility reflected modern healthcare far more than the former 89-year-old station.
He praised the work of paramedics and welcomed them officially to their “new home”.
Related: Ambulance station open next month