Caring for a town of 1,000, Jo is one of Victoria's first community paramedics
As Tallangatta's only community paramedic, each day is a busy, rewarding whirlwind for Jo Brookes
It starts with a 40-minute drive to the tiny town, stopping at homes on the way to check on people recently attended by an ambulance.
Then she is back on the road, checking in at the local medical centre before heading to Tallangatta Health Service.
Working out of the hospital's urgent care centre, Ms Brookes supports staff with key emergency presentations.
"When you work in an ambulance, you respond to a call, go in, assist a patient and transport them to the closest hospital," she said.
"After an emergency presentation, how do we help people to have an improvement in their life?
"Rather than them returning home and then declining back to another medical emergency."
Pilot program allows paramedics to trial skills
Ms Brookes's role is part of a 12-month pilot program by Ambulance Victoria, Tallangatta Health Service and the Department of Health.
Launched in March this year, it has seen Ms Brookes on hand two days a week to assist with emergency care at Tallangatta Health Service.
She also completes patient assessments, mainly in residential or aged care areas.
Ms Brookes said the role allowed her to stretch beyond her traditional ambulance responsibilities.
Vital emergency care closer to home
Above all, the program has provided locals with treatment options closer to home, while also freeing up ambulances.
Something Ms Brookes said was desperately needed in tiny regional towns like Tallangatta.
"They may actually go to the urgent care room at Tallangatta Health Service."
Ms Brookes said ambulance trips to Albury-Wodonga could take hours if ambulances were already occupied in the larger neighbouring city.
"This means people can get the treatment they need and then return home," she said.
"This will make a big difference for everyone."
Home visits and ongoing check-ups
Ms Brookes will also be providing care outside hospital walls.
"In the coming months when people call for an ambulance, I may turn up," she said.
"Also, after locals have had an ambulance attend, a week or two down the track I might knock on the door just to check they’re travelling okay and that they're connected to the service they need to be connected with."
The program is due to end in March next year.
Once completed, Ms Brookes says it will undergo an evaluation to determine if it has been a success – and if it should be trialled elsewhere.
"Absolutely, this program has given locals peace of mind.
"It's great to be able to support the hospital and work with them to service the local community."