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Humble start to state's lifesaver

Ipswich ambulance station in 1925.
Ipswich ambulance station in 1925.

THIS September marks 125 years of the Queensland Ambulance Service and Ipswich will be front and centre of the celebrations.

Home to one of the first ambulance stations in the state, Ipswich was an important part of the early development of the life-saving service, which officially started in Brisbane in 1892.

The first ambulance service in Ipswich started on November 4, 1901, with Irish immigrant William Tomkins placed at the helm of the station next to the Cecil Hotel at North Ipswich.

Ipswich ambulance station in 1902.
Ipswich ambulance station in 1902.

The plant consisted of two Ashford litters and one collapsible stretcher.

In 1902 a horse and sulky were added. Volunteer historian and former Ipswich paramedic Mick Davis said a quick look back on the humble beginnings of the QAS showed just how far things have progressed.

"The whole idea to form a civil ambulance service was triggered by an accident at the Brisbane Showgrounds in August, 1892,” Mr Davis said.

"A rider in the Maiden Hunter's Cup sustained a simple fracture of the left leg when his horse fell and rolled on him, but because they mishandled him, it became a compound fracture.”

Dr Sandford Jackson, the then-superintendent of the Brisbane General Hospital, was sitting ringside, along with Seymour Warrian of the Ambulance Corps of the Queensland Defence Force.

Deeply concerned by what he witnessed, Mr Warrian mentioned the matter to his comrades in the Army Medical Corps and a meeting was organised at his house on Boggo Rd on September 12, 1892, the official birthday of the QAS.

Ipswich Station is hosting an open day on Wednesday, September 13, 11.30am-2pm, to celebrate the history and the achievements over the years.

The ambulance fleet outside the North Ipswich station in 1960.
The ambulance fleet outside the North Ipswich station in 1960.

"In those early days there were no horses, so they just had to walk the patient to hospital or occasionally they'd load the litter onto the train,” Mr Davis said.

The Ipswich ambulance station moved a short distance to the corner of Downs and Flint St in 1909. It was demolished in 1918 and built and opened in 1919 on the same site, remaining there right up until the new Garden St facility opened in 2011.

Mr Davis, who was with QAS from 1969 until 2013, said Ipswich had a proud history of service and was the home for some innovative leaders.

"I witnessed a lot of improvements in my time,” he said.

"The biggest changes came in the form of providing safety for patients and using evidence-based practice.”

Mr Davis, 73, is one of the volunteers at the QAS museum at Wynnum, which is open by appointment.

Next Wednesday's open day at Ipswich ambulance station will feature a range of displays and a free barbecue.

MODERN FACILITY: Then-officer in charge Helen Donaldson with commissioner Russell Bowles at the opening of the new ambulance station in Ipswich in 2011.
MODERN FACILITY: Then-officer in charge Helen Donaldson with commissioner Russell Bowles at the opening of the new ambulance station in Ipswich in 2011. Sarah Harvey

Topics:  history queensland ambulance service whatson what's on in ipswich



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