One of the most highly qualified volunteer groups in the state is desperate for volunteers.
Nathalia’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) currently comprises 13 volunteer first responders, who are dispatched as an ambulance in response to a 000 call.
‘‘We typically get to an incident in 10 minutes. If somebody is having a heart attack that time is vitally important,’’ Nathalia CERT team leader Paul Slattery said.
‘‘We’re not able to do a 24/7-hour roster at the moment because we’ve all got commitments. Our numbers are dwindling.’’
CERTs work in pairs on an on-call basis in less populated and more remote areas of Victoria.
They are trained to provide advanced first aid services within their community and provide immediate care until the ambulance service arrives.
‘‘CERT was set up by Ambulance Victoria many years ago to improve the response time in places that were more than 25 minutes from an ambulance station,’’ Mr Slattery said.
‘‘There are always two of us on call. If a call comes in, those two people go. One will have the CERT vehicle and the other will get picked up on the way.’’
The Numurkah Ambulance Station is the closest station to Nathalia and talented volunteers work closely with paramedics based in Numurkah.
‘‘We do rather more than just first-aid. The Nathalia CERT team is one of the most highly-qualified volunteer groups in the state,’’ Mr Slattery said.
‘‘We come from all walks of life and lots of age groups. I’m a science teacher, but we have farmers, businessmen, retirees and nurses.
‘‘Having more people to spread the load would be marvellous.’’
Mr Slattery said attending incidents including babies being born on the side of the road and motor vehicle accidents were at one end of the scale, but a lot of it was about ‘‘going to people that are feeling unwell’’.
‘‘They’re basically frightened and it’s a matter of reassuring them and helping them with their pain,’’ he said.
Nathalia resident Jude Dealy has been a volunteer with the team for 12 years, joining when it first formed in November 2005.
‘‘I put myself in their position and thought if I was needing medical help, I’d like it as soon as possible,’’ she said.
‘‘Lacerations, bleeding, panic attacks, falls, blood noses, broken bones, fits and asthma attacks — the role is varied. It’s not unusual for me to have seven (12-hour) shifts in a fortnight.’’
- Hayden Thompson