Tamworth outskirts: Emergency strikes as Telstra service cuts off couple for a month

CLOSE CALL: Carer Christine Coles had to drive 10-kilometres out of town to get an ambulance for her husband Kenneth. Photo: Peter Hardin 090320PHC013
CLOSE CALL: Carer Christine Coles had to drive 10-kilometres out of town to get an ambulance for her husband Kenneth. Photo: Peter Hardin 090320PHC013

A 10-kilometre drive stood between carer Christine Coles and an ambulance for her husband Kenneth.

The couple live in Garthowen on the outskirts of Tamworth, NSW, and have been without Telstra landline or mobile reception for the last month.

When a real emergency struck, Mrs Coles discovered how scary being cut-off from the outside world can be.

"Ken had a bad fall and it was only him and I home, he has a dementia-type condition so I couldn't leave him on his own in case it got worse," she said.

"I had to get a neighbour to sit with him while I drove into town to call an ambulance.

"I'm at my wits end to know who to turn to, who to complain to, because you ring up Telstra and you don't get anywhere."

Mr Coles sustained multiple spinal fractures in the fall, he has short-term memory loss from a prior brain injury.

A Manilla doctor is so concerned about discharging him without phone reception that she has written a letter to the telecommunication giant.

At least 15 families live in Garthowen, Telstra has promised those who have been cut-off satellite phones on number occasions but they never turned up.

The problem started with storm activity and was supposed to be fixed by the start of February.

A Telstra spokeswoman said that due to extreme weather conditions a pit in the area was flooded.

"This is a complex issue and the team needed to order specific parts," she said.

"There are a team of technicians working on restoring service now, I will come back to you once they have confirmed the expected restoration time."

A month down the track and numerous complaints later the small community still hasn't been put back in touch with the outside world.

Mrs Coles drives home from the hospital everyday to the property the couple have called home for four decades.

"Everyday when I go home from the hospital I look on the road hoping to see them out there fixing it," she said.

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"If you're on a farm even the nearest neighbour is a kilometre away, if Ken had a heart attack he'd die and that would be it because the nearest neighbour is so far away.

"One Telstra fellow said, 'Well you chose to live out in the country', that's a terrible thing to say."

This story Emergency strikes as couple cut-off from Telstra service for a month first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.