Wagga paramedic Phil Hoey retires after 43 years saving lives and volunteering for Riverina charities and Kidney Kar

Former Cowra paramedic Phil Hoey has retired after 43 years with the ambulance service.

Phil started at Cootamundra ambulance station in 1975 as an honorary officer at 19 – and did unpaid work for two years while working on the railway.

After two years, he joined up as a paramedic full-time as an officer in Wagga, but travelled around the region as a relief work for two years.

Phil returned to Wagga in 1979 until 1989, where he worked through the ranks until he took a station officer role at Singleton in 1990.

He was the first person at the Singleton station to be trained in advanced life support.

He stayed at Singleton for 18 months, then moved to Cowra as a station officer from 1991-1995 before returning to Wagga.

It was his own personal crisis that inspired Mr Hoey to start helping others for a living when paramedics saved his life after hitting a sheep with his motorbike.

“The driving force behind my whole career is the fact that I got a second chance by a paramedic; and ambulance officers saved my life back in 1973,” he said.

“It’s where my association began, back when I used to go into the ambulance station in Cootamundra and pay a small amount of money and pay a small amount of money each fortnight out of what was then my unemployment benefits.

“That was until I learnt to walk again. I got to know them and they got to know me and they asked ‘why don’t you become a paramedic?’”

Wagga Base Hospital staff wish paramedic Phil Hoey a happy retirement on Monday. Picture: Contributed

Wagga Base Hospital staff wish paramedic Phil Hoey a happy retirement on Monday. Picture: Contributed

The job has changed a lot since he was first inspired to sign up as an honorary paramedic before becoming a paid staff member in 1977.

“Once, getting them to the hospital as fast as possible was the key,” he said.

“Now, we manage, stabilise and transport and it’s a whole new ball game.

“If you had told me I would be putting needles in people’s arms and doing defibrillation and intubation and all these other things paramedics do, I wouldn’t have thought they would never let us do that.”

There have also been less welcome changes.

“What creates the greatest risk for paramedics is dealing with people with acute behavioral disturbances who are affected by drugs or alcohol,” he said.

“It was a completely different world when drugs came along.”

Citizen of the Year Phil Hoey, Wagga mayor Greg Conkey and Young Citizen of the Year Francis Elliott-Rudder in January 2018.

Citizen of the Year Phil Hoey, Wagga mayor Greg Conkey and Young Citizen of the Year Francis Elliott-Rudder in January 2018.

Mr Hoey has also spent a lot of his free time helping others by volunteering as a paramedic for the Kidney Kar Rally for the past 25 years which meant money which would be spent on medical could go to charity.

Mr Hoey’s wife Kim said her husband’s career spoke for itself.

“We’re just looking forward to where the next chapter takes us,” she said.