Northern exposure: Life in the Torres Strait

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Watson, L 2016, ‘Northern exposure: Life in the Torres Strait’, QAS insight magazine – May 2016, p. 32-34, <QAS Insight Magazine – May 2016 edition by QAS Media – issuu>.

By Leah Watson

Amongst the QAS ambulance stations, the most remote is Thursday Island. OIC, David Cameron, has been at the beautifully unique station since November last year.

‘The reason behind my interest in Thursday Island is that my first ever mentor, and probably one of my best mates, was up here for the four years before I met him,’ David said.

‘My wife, Carly, is up here, she’s an intensive care paramedic and on maternity leave. We also have our four-month-old daughter, Aria, so it was a bit overwhelming to start with but the community has really embraced us – neighbours pop in and help out, there’s mothers’ groups and child care – they’ve really made it easy for the transition.’

A key aspect among the things that make Thursday Island ambulance station such a unique place is the utilisation of helicopters.

‘The workload here is limited in that it’s not as busy as a big city, but there is a real variety of cases we go to and we cover 16 different islands,’ he said.

‘From Thursday Island itself we’ve got a call roster that includes two qualified paramedic officers and a cadet.

‘One of those officers is on the helicopter, which covers the outer islands – it’s a daily occurrence that we’re on the helicopter going to an outer island to retrieve a patient.

‘We work hand-in-hand with Australian Helicopters, the support they give us is terrific and the training we receive is second to none. You only get into the helicopter if they’re satisfied you’re competent.’

The Thursday Island ambulance station responds to patients as far out as the border with Papua New Guinea.

‘We do deal with a lot of patients that make their way down from PNG,’ he said.

‘From out there we bring back some really sick patients – a lot of sepsis and tropical diseases that require a lot of research.

‘Every officer I’ve spoken to that’s worked here has said the experience is unforgettable. It’s a life changer.

‘As a young paramedic it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, you’ll attend jobs up here that you’ll never attend on the mainland.

‘From learning new skills and the range of patients we go to, to the day-to-day living and the history of the place – it’s just amazing and on your days off there’s so much to experience.’

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