Redlands Islands – “No country for old men” (elderly folk)?

Ambulance ferry “Kitty Kat”

The following letter has been sent to all local political representatives, the local press and major local stakeholders for the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. This letter highlights a dilemma, we are all facing living on these island because of a lack of equivalent transport infrastructure.


We, the members of this group wholeheartedly support the plight of our member and administrator Greg Hartay-Szabo, for taking on this important task.

We would also like to express our deepest sympathies to Greg and his family for the loss of your dad.

Note, this was first posted on Clem J Ebber’s Facebook Group, “SMBI Infrastructure & Passenger Ferry Terminals”.


Dear local representatives, ladies and gentlemen,


I am contacting you in regards to a personal example that may help highlight the plight of residents on these islands for better infrastructure provisions, commensurate with a growing population on these islands.


Besides practically all our lobbying for alternative access and evacuation options to and from Russell Island where I live (ranging from ignoring a 2011 GHD alternative water transport study to a petition signed by 1,100 for a Rocky Point boat ramp declined), our plight of many years for better and diversified transport options than just a single water transport monopoly and a singe access point connection on this 8-km long island, has been either overlooked or indefinitely procrastinated, as before. The island has a dynamically growing population but yet to be matched with commensurate infrastructure provisions.


1 1/2 Hours to the mainland

The transfer time from islands to hospital is of particular concern. My father had a heart failure (a heart attack, as the cardiologist at the PA diagnosed it the following day) an the ambulance was called around 10pm on Saturday, 19 January this year and it took more than an hour and a half(!) for just a transfer as near as Redland Bay, before waiting for hospital placement started on the mainland…the poor ambulance officer was on one’s own; another person was also picked up who had apparently no critical or life-threatening condition, while waiting for the ambulance boat (why these cannot be parked at respective islands to be quickly available, is another question). My father was then transferred to the Redland Hospital – instead of Logan Hospital, better equipped for this condition, where he had been treated before, paperwork of treatment history was at hand and despite specifically being asked for! This was not within the authority of the ambulance officers. He had to wait at the Redlands Hospital for 4 hours(!) until a specialist doctor (head of department) “finally” arrived and “finally” ordered him to be transferred to the PA Hospital where there was adequate specialist equipment and professional specialist care to look after him! So, in summary: from the 000 call made to final arrival to the only heart specialist hospital on the southside of Brisbane, the PA Hospital – it took more than 6 hours to get! Over 6 hours, within a metropolitan radius of a state capital, a mere 40 kms from the island location where the 000 call was made. This is clearly unacceptable.


I appreciate the effort of the local medical professionals who, no doubt, give their best to provide the best available care on these islands. But there is certainly a significant room for improvement when one reads the recently published letter of Dr Cameron, whose description of conditions I can fully associate with.


Given the above circumstances, at least, the ambulance cars on these islands should also be equipped with a Mobile Intensive Care Unit – as already suggested also on the island – in case longer time for transfer is involved and there is no helicopter transfer available (as it should have been in the above case). Such equipment could make it possible to place a patient under induced coma or other urgent medical response, while waiting for transfer by water transport. I note that equipping the ferries with defibrillators has been a great step in this direction (albeit taken upon a casualty on the ferry). I also note that while North Stradbroke Island has 24-hour medical care available, having less than half of the population of the larger islands, Russell or Macleay, on or off season – regardless whether it is tourist season or not.


In addition to the above, despite the very recommendations of the QFES report in 2017, there is still no secondary land evacuation route on Russell Island, nor officially certified barge ramp on the southern half which could help our chances in a mass evacuation scenario in case of a large fire. Emergency backup on fire trucks could only arrive via barges but how much average time could that take before lives could be threatened or perish, besides property?


We deserve to be treated better than “second or third-class” citizens, as island residents within 10 kms from the mainland and 40 kms within a capital city radius. I am afraid, while minor infrastructure improvements such as additional parking for island residents on the mainland may constitute some short-term progress in a certain regard, it would still be inadequate to address issues such as the above. We have come to a stage where more thorough planning and action would be needed to ensure long-term sustainability of living on these islands. Currently, these still remain but a dream.


I can sincerely hope that, while a faster transfer could have potentially saved or extended my father’s life, this shall, at the very least, be a “wake-up” call to expediate planning and funding infrastructure provisions for these islands that have a predominantly elderly population – so that other people may be saved or be given a better chance in similar critical situations.


With thanks,


Best wishes


Greg Hartay-Szabo

Russell Island resident

former chairperson of MBCIA

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