Private hospitals in bushfire-affected parts of the country have stepped forward to offer support and accommodation to their communities.
Southern Highlands Private Hospital and Nowra Private Hospital have been offered as accommodation to Rural Fire Service volunteers and to Ramsay Health Care staff members forced to leave their homes.
There are 32 firefighters from the North and North West Tasmania Fire Service staying at Nowra Private Hospital.
CEO Prue Buist said the hospital community was working hard to support the firefighters who had previously been sleeping in stretchers or basic accommodation due to the number of people evacuated in the local area.
"Approximately 30 staff are volunteering to organise meals for the firefighters, do their washing, change their bedding and make sure cold beer is in the fridge at the end of a long day," Ms Buist said.
"We have been totally overwhelmed by offers of support – from people who are bringing in food such as cakes and biscuits, to the young daughter of one of our staff, who has made a sign to thank the firefighters for the work they are doing in our community."
"We have also provided accommodation for staff who have been forced to leave their homes; we have one family staying at Nowra Private Hospital and three families at Southern Highlands Private Hospital."
Ramsay Health Care, which owns and operates both Nowra and Southern Highlands Private Hospitals, has developed a national Bushfire Relief Appeal to help fire-affected staff members and communities.
CEO Danny Sims said it was heartbreaking to see the devastation unfolding due to Australia’s ongoing bushfire emergency that has tragically claimed lives, destroyed properties, and forced countless numbers of people to be evacuated from their homes.
"The scale of this crisis is unprecedented and we have received many enquiries from staff wishing to offer their help to their colleagues and fellow Australians during this difficult time," Mr Sims said.
Ramsay Health Care will be hosting fundraisers at its hospitals between now and 17 January 2020.
"We are asking all of our Ramsay sites to host a fundraiser lunch for staff members. Ramsay Health Care will then match the amount of money raised by each site," Mr Sims said.
Proceeds will be donated to the NSW Rural Fire Service and Country Fire Authority in Victoria.
In addition, Ramsay staff members who volunteer in emergency services will continue to receive their regular wages.
"It is important that we ensure these employees are financially supported while they serve their communities," Mr Sims said.
"All Ramsay staff and doctors can also access professional and confidential counselling, coaching and support through our Employee Assistance Program. This is a free 24/7 counselling service."
Other ways private hospitals are providing assistance:
Joondalup Health Campus’s supply department has supplied items to assist with helping wildlife affected by bushfires.
They are donating medical supplies such as absorbent pads and cloths, plastic suture sets, kidney dishes, and IV starter kits.
Murray Valley Private Hospital is helping to care for 15 aged care residents evacuated from Alpine Health Facilities. The staff are also providing emotional support to these residents’ families who have been affected by the fires.
Murray Valley Private has offered Willow Park Lodge accommodation to the nurses from Alpine Health who have been rostered to work, as they too live in towns which have been evacuated or need to travel long distances on roads with poor visibility due to smoke.
Frances Perry House is collecting medical items that would otherwise be destined for landfill and instead donating them to help fire-affected wildlife – e.g. packages of gauze, wipes, clean disposable items such as sterile dressing scissors, pipettes, and other out-of-date stock.
The Border Cancer Hospital is providing social work support to patients who have been impacted by the bushfires. The day oncology unit has provided advice and information to people who are unable to return to their centres for treatment, and has also offered five acute care beds if further evacuations occur.
Nurses have also collected clothes and toiletries that are being sent to the town of Cudgewa. They have also been donating towels, sheets and food for injured animals. In addition, they have patterns for making mittens for injured koalas, bags for stranded joeys and bat wraps for baby bats, so are calling on anyone with sewing skills who could make these items. On 18 January, nurses will be cooking a barbecue fundraiser for the local community at the IGA opposite The Border Cancer Hospital. All proceeds will be donated to a local fire relief fund.
Mt Wilga Private Hospital has donated a box of medical supplies to Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Rural Fire Service.
Port Macquarie Private Hospital has donated money via the Wauchope IGA to be spent on team supplies for the Hastings RFS. More than 100 care packages have also been made up by the hospital for use by volunteer firefighters.
Hillcrest Rockhampton Private Hospital has provided a number of baskets filled with items donated by staff, following bushfires in Yeppoon, Central Queensland where a number of homes were recently impacted.