Report: The impact of bushfires on HammondCare and those in our care

As Australia’s bushfire crisis has dominated national and international headlines, HammondCare at Home and other staff have continued to deliver services across several fire ravaged areas showing remarkable levels of care, teamwork and ingenuity.

HammondCare At Home General Manager Delia Gray reports that across NSW and Victoria up to four clients have lost their homes. All clients and community care workers from Mallacoota are all safe however damages and or losses to property is still unclear due to communication outages and road closures.

“Many other clients in a number of regions have been evacuated and as part of our planning for fires, our managers contacted as many clients and families as possible, discussing fire plans and identifying the clients at greatest risk.

“In other cases, having identified clients on their own with no family accessible, if we could not get to them directly, our staff liaised with neighbours, other services and even the police and ambulance to try and build support around them.

“Staff have also felt the worst of the fires with three losing their homes in the Bateman’s Bay area and others still waiting to confirm the status of their homes after being evacuated. We are offering a range of supports to these staff members.

“Numerous staff have been evacuated from their homes on multiple occasions, offices have closed due to safety concerns, and rosters updated to minimise staff on the roads in dangerous conditions.

“Through all of this our staff across affected areas have shown remarkable dedication to caring for clients, supporting each other and utilising their extensive local knowledge to solve problems and find ways to support the many vulnerable people we care for.

“My sincere thanks goes to all of our staff, including heads of region, area managers, care staff, schedulers, support staff – many working through when scheduled to be on annual leave – for all you have done and continue to do during these difficult days.”

While HammondCare at Home services as far north as Kyogle and as far south as Mallacoota have been impacted, one of the most challenging areas has been in the southern region, particularly the south coast of NSW (and across the border into Mallacoota).

Head of Region Tammy Makin described just some of the startling circumstances through which staff continued to find ways to work together, and these are indicative of the response of staff in other regions.

“At one point every staff member from the Bateman’s Bay office was evacuated and then the entire team had to find ways to locate and care for clients without power. Displaced staff were going to their cars to recharge phones so they could ring around clients and liaise with managers, all while being concerned for the safety of their own home.

“Likewise in Nowra, staff were evacuated from homes multiple times and at one stage, everyone based in the Nowra office was unable to return home, including myself. We were planning to stay the night in the office and as we were selecting which chair we would sleep in, news came through that the danger had passed and we were able to return home.

One story out of many shows the problem-solving approach of HammondCare At Home staff. A new care worker, Frederick, was in only his second week providing care on his own, when he travelled from his home in Sussex Inlet to provide care to a number of male clients in Ulladulla.

“While he was with clients, the road in Sussex Inlet was closed due to fire and he was stranded in Ulladulla from Tuesday to Friday.

Once the highway opened, he was able to move closer however still unable to get home to Sussex “We then linked Frederick to another care worker who was able to arrange for her son-in-law to return him home by boat from St Georges Basin. He was very happy to be back in with family.

“Previously this same resourceful care worker, in consultation with managers, arranged with a stranded care worker/s in Sussex Inlet, to visit clients and see what essentials they needed while the road was cut. The care worker then purchased these essentials so that her son in law could transport them by boat to Sussex Inlet. Care staff picked up the supplies from the wharf to distribute to clients.”

Fire alert at Hammondville

While HammondCare At Home teams have been operating in fire zones for weeks, fires have largely been clear of our residential and hospital services, until Sunday, January 5 at Hammondville.

A fire at Voyager’s Point to the south, burned fairly close to parts of Hammondville’s residential care and independent living.

Heavy smoke and the constant circling overhead of water bombing helicopters, led to the relocation of Willow and Briar cottage residents to Bond House. ILU residents in Melaleuca were also invited to relocate to the community centre if they wished.

Senior staff were on hand to liaise with RFS and monitor conditions while other staff arrived to offer assistance. The fire was downgraded after about six hours and the risk passed.

Care and support

Taking care of you while you take care of others is our business. Many HCAH staff have lived and worked through terrifying circumstances in recent weeks, and continue to do so. Often it is when the immediate crisis has passed that the impact is felt. Please discuss any needs with your manager, and make use of pastoral care and other support services.