A ROBUST community meeting at St Helens yesterday did little to quell public protest to impending ambulance changes on the East Coast.
Ambulance Tasmania will this week take away the Scamander branch station's Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive, as it couldn't carry a stretcher, replacing it with a new Mercedes ambulance and a four-wheel-drive Toyota Land Cruiser from a North-West station.
Yesterday, Northern Tasmania manager Matthew Eastham attended the meeting of about 20 people to explain the changes on behalf of Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne.
Mr Eastham said the region's sole paid paramedic, based at Scamander, would respond to jobs in the Mercedes ambulance unless call-outs specified the need for a 4WD.
``Which is great, because they do go to jobs by themselves at times, they are first on ambulance cases quite a bit, and they will have all of the intensive-care level equipment in that ambulance,'' Mr Eastham said.
But Break O'Day councillor and St Helens Volunteer Ambulance Association co-ordinator Donna Coulson said the East Coast's geography meant it was often unknown that a 4WD was needed until the paramedic was on-route.
``And most of the time there are volunteer crew there with an ambulance - we just need the paramedic there with their skills and their gear, and even if they get there first, it doesn't matter if they haven't got a stretcher, they can be giving those life-saving skills to the patient while they're waiting for us,'' Cr Coulson said.
Mayor Sarah Schmerl said she was ``very angry'' that Ambulance Tasmania was changing a set-up that she felt already worked well.
Both Cr Schmerl and Cr Coulson shared concerns that the East Coast may miss out on having an intensive care paramedic as part of the changes, but Mr Eastham said they were always given priority in the hiring process and there was no intent to change that.
``We're actually going to watch this very, very closely and any instance where we believe or perceive that there might have been an issue - even if there was no issues with patients but there was an issue with a road or someone said they couldn't go somewhere - then we're actually going to do an investigation into all of that,'' he said.