In 1952 the South Australian Government formalised ambulance provision, with St John being chosen to provide all metropolitan ambulance services and most country ones.
Calls for assistance were by phone to the communications centre, at the Hindmarsh depot, and crews were dispatched from other depots by phone.
During the 1950s, 14 ambulance vehicles were fitted with a Pye two-way radio system. However, as the antenna and base were situated at Hindmarsh, transmission was only 50% effective in the metropolitan area.
In country areas, calls for assistance were by phone to the local ambulance officer’s home (with the officer’s wife staffing the phone while he was on a job) or the local hospital.
Once the two-way radio system was introduced, with an antenna tower and base situated at the local hospital, calls for assistance were directed to the hospital, which would dispatch the town ambulance.
Around this time, medical officers in training began to be employed by the ambulance service during their holidays. The quality of patient care greatly improved.
Some medical officers were selected to write information on pre-hospital care, which became SA’s first ambulance officer manual, Ambulance Transport Nursing.
St John provided ambulance services in South Australia until 1989, when the metropolitan workforce was converted to a fully paid career service, (rather than a mix of volunteers and paid staff). Thus began the split from St John Ambulance Service and the formation of SA Ambulance Service (SAAS).