Sign In
HomeNewsStaff deployed to support far west NSW communities

Staff deployed to support far west NSW communities

NSLHD staff have been deployed to far-west NSW to support communities responding to a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Staff from across the district have put up their hand to travel to Broken Hill, Dubbo and Wilcannia to help colleagues in Far West Local Health District in any way they can. 

Director of Aboriginal Health Peter Shine and Registered Nurse Barbara Triantafilis are currently based in Broken Hill. 

Peter has been trained up to work with the local public health unit, while Barbara is working at a vaccination hub. 

Peter said being on the ground, working with the public health unit and going into COVID-19 hot spot areas is a huge learning experience, but he is surrounded by a fabulous team. 

“A lot of the mob aren’t getting vaccinated or presenting for COVID-19 testing and they are reluctant to do so unless they see the danger to them directly is imminent. 

“Together with staff on the ground, we are working on a way to try and get all rates up – both COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 vaccination.”

For the last two weeks, Royal North Shore Hospital Intensive Care Unit nurses Mikaela Hedge and Emma Cardwell (pictured on the front cover in full personal protective equipment) have been working at Dubbo Base Hospital’s ICU.  

The unit has capacity for five ventilated patients but when Mikaela and Emma arrived there were already five ventilated patients. 

“The ICU was already pretty much pushing the boundaries and struggling to manage,” Mikaela said. 

“We went straight on the roster and became part of the team – everyone was very appreciative of us being there.” 

At one point, Mikaela – who has six years’ experience working in the ICU – realised she was the most senior person on the floor.

“And I had only been in the hospital for 10 days,” she said.

At regional hospitals there’s not the same resources you have at a major metro hospital, but it was really impressive to see how everyone wanted to help out wherever they could.
Royal North Shore Hospital Intensive Care Unit nurse Mikaela Hedge

“There were lots of young and enthusiastic nurses who put up their hand to help. 

“So the team used Emma and I to help educate more junior staff who didn’t have experience working in intensive care and to train up theatre staff, so when we left it wouldn’t leave a big gap.

“Hopefully we’ve helped those nurses train for the future.”

Emma said it was an easy decision to put her hand up to go to Dubbo, but couldn’t have done so without the support from her team at RNSH. 

“While I work at RNSH, we are all part of the NSW Health system, and our colleagues were asking for help,” she said. 

“Mikaela and I work with a great team who worked incredibly hard to enable two staff members to be freed up to assist our colleagues in Dubbo. 

“To me this was not about two nurses going to Dubbo, it was an entire department looking at what they could do to provide support to Western NSW in a time of need.”

Hornsby Hospital Critical Care Nurse Consultant Wenche Kverneland is currently based in Wilcannia. 

Wenche has been helping with setting up community supported accommodation for close contacts to self-isolate safely if they can’t do so at home.

“I provide wellbeing checks and COVID-19 swabs for those who are self-isolating in the community supported accommodation,” Wenche said. 

“Together with other NSW Health staff, we are working with the SES and RFS to assist with the operations by providing logistical support. 

“It’s really nice to be able to help in some way and the people are so lovely.”

Chief Executive Deb Willcox said she was very proud of staff for putting themselves forward to help out. 

“This is a very difficult time for these communities and being able to contribute is a very important and probably life-changing experience for our staff,” she said. 

“Thank you to all our staff who have kindly agreed to work outside of your roles, away from your workplace and colleagues – and in some cases your families and loved ones – and assist in our whole-of-health system response.”

What others found interesting…