NSLHD Year in Review 2020

Saluting our staff through bushfires and covid deployment

It’s no secret when signing up for a career as a health care worker one will face new challenges every single day. But over the last 12 months many staff never would have considered supporting a bushfire crisis and a pandemic when they signed up for the job. While navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge of them all, it’s easy to forget other national disasters our staff have attended to over the last year. The 2019-20 summer bushfire season took more than 70 NSLHD staff to bushfire stricken communities to support Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) and Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD). The first teams were on the ground within 48 hours of the request for support with staff working alongside the districts to provide support and clinical care to isolated communities, hospitals and multipurpose facilities. A group of nurses, social workers, community nurses and a medical officer were based at Wagga Wagga. A group of mental health clinicians (MHDA) assisted SNSWLHD in Bega. The team undertook valuable work across a range of settings, including evacuation centres, recovery centres, in the community at people’s homes, in the mental health inpatient unit and also in South East Regional Hospital.

Sue Strachan, Nurse Manager, Nursing and Midwifery Directorate, was the team leader on the ground for the first two weeks of deployment, and Elisabeth Manning, Operations Manager, Macquarie Hospital, was the team leader for MHDA. “As a team, we feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity,” Sue said. “The issues ranged from basic wound care, burns management, lots of respiratory issues, and psychological first aid for paediatrics to geriatrics and everything in between. “We came with a plan in mind and quickly found out what was really needed from us was kindness, compassion and an ear to listen. Along with that and the clinical skills to deal with and manage the community issues, all our multidisciplinary skills were utilised.” COVID-19 saw around 15 NSLHD staff deployed across the country and abroad, some part of Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT), to areas requiring support in the management of the pandemic. Back in February Occupational Therapist (OT) at Ryde Hospital, Rachael Marlow headed to Darwin where she along with fellow OT at Royal North Shore Hospital Emma Tan spent two and three weeks, respectively, assisting with the repatriation of Australians who had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Rachael said it was a priviledge to represent allied health in disaster management with OT making a real positive difference to the mission.

Rachael and Emma in Darwin

Di in Papua New Guinea

“We treated roughly 180 residents who were from all over Australia,” she said. “As a lot of the cohort were frail, we were required to make sure their accommodation was suitable and they didn’t decondition whilst isolating.” Nurse Unit Manager at the RNSH Burns Unit Di Elfleet was based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for over a month. “I conducted a lot of donning and doffing training and CPR training,” Di said. “Learning from our experience at RNSH, I felt my biggest achievement was teaching the local teams how to manage the rosters to ensure all staff were safe.” On the following two pages is an honour board naming all staff who were deployed this year, both within the state during the bushfire crisis and across the country and overseas during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to all involved for volunteering to support others during these challenging times.

MHDA teams at Merimbula Airport

Team on the ground in the state’s south


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