Almost 50 staff from across the district have been assisting bushfire stricken communities in the state's south.

Staff from NSLHD are currently supporting Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) and Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) as part of the NSW Health response to the crisis.

Both districts have been greatly impacted by fires and face ongoing challenges with issues surrounding power, water, closure of health facilities and continuing fire risk.

The first teams were on the ground in affected communities 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 are based at Wagga Wagga.

A group of mental health clinicians (MHDA) are assisting SNSWLHD in Bega. The team is undertaking 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 in Bega.

Sue Strachan, Nurse Manager from NSLHD, Nursing and Midwifery Directorate, was the Team Leader on the ground for the first two weeks of NSLHD deployment, whilst Elisabeth Manning, Operations Manager, Macquarie Hospital, MHDA, NSLHD, was the Team Leader for MHDA. While it had been particularly challenging at times, both Sue and Elisabeth reported that the teams were doing an outstanding job.

 "As a team, we feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity. We've been very well supported by the team at MLHD and have made such strong connections with them and also the wider communities we've been working with. These connections will stay with us for life," Sue said, reflecting on the NSLHD deployed team.

"The issues have 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 have been utilised," she said. 

While NSLHD hospitals and services have not been directly affected by bushfires, Acting Director Nursing and Midwifery Jenny Neilsen said it was inspiring to see so many staff eager to support partnering districts.

"Thank you to everyone on the ground and the many staff who have volunteered to help, as well as the ongoing support of those maintaining our health services during this critical time to support local communities, as well as patients and consumers from outside our District," Jenny said.

"NSLHD continues to provide excellent care as usual to the community while some staff support other districts during this time."

For those interested in getting involved in the bushfire relief efforts, please contact the Counter Disaster Unit on [email protected]  For those from MHDA who are interested, please contact your line manager.

For those who require additional support, free 24-hour counselling is available via the Employee Assistance Program on 1300 687 327.

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