After the deluge, solidarity

The floods in Northern NSW brought out a strong community spirit.

Nurses at Lismore Base Hospital were left stranded by flooding that devastated the northern NSW city in late March. Some were unable to get to the hospital to start work, while others could not return home following their shifts.

Lismore’s central business district was inundated when the Wilsons River overtopped the levee in the wake of cyclone Debbie.

The hospital is situated on high ground three blocks from the CBD and remained dry.

However, all on-duty nurses worked overtime to plug the gaps left by colleagues unable to reach the hospital due to flooded roads and landslips.

“I did a double shift the first night and a 12-hour shift the next day,” said NSWNMA branch secretary Gil Wilson. “I live out of town and the flood cut the Bruxner Highway so I couldn’t have made it home anyway.

“On-duty nurses were given the option to leave work to try to rescue their pets and possessions, but those who were stranded were accommodated in hospital housing.

“A nurse lost her car and part of her house. Another got home to find water lapping at floorboards of her house which is built on stilts. One guy paddled to work at the hospital on a flotation device and got told off by the SES for his troubles.”

NSWNMA branch president Shaen Springall said some nurses unable to get to Lismore hospital volunteered for duty at hospitals in nearby towns such as Casino, Kyogle and Ballina.

“One Lismore nurse lost the entire contents of her house. She made a list of what she needed at home and everyone donated items to help her out,” he said.

Nurses step up for flooded communities

The hospital’s NSWNMA and Health Services Union branches held an afternoon tea fundraiser at work to collect money for the city council flood appeal.

Many nurses volunteered to clean up the town after floodwaters receded.

Shaen used his days off and FACS leave to help clean up his local pub, the New Tattersalls Hotel.

“The pub was hit by over two metres of water that reached the tops of the doors. I spent five days washing walls and scrubbing floors to help them reopen,” he said.

“There were heaps of volunteers. A couple of women set up Lismore Helping Hands to coordinate volunteers and donations through a Facebook page.

“They set up shop in the old railway station and coordinated people who cooked and delivered food and clean water to the worst-affected households.”

Around 30 teams of about five volunteers were dispatched around the city daily to deliver essential goods and clean up.

Shaen said the height of the flood caught locals by surprise.

“The water went at least 1.2 metres above the predicted height so businesses that thought they had put their stock out of reach suffered massive losses.

“It was such a widespread downpour that everyone got caught out. We were forecast to get 400ml of rain on one day and instead we got 800ml.”

Fees waiver for affected members

If you have been affected by the recent floods, the NSWNMA would like to offer you support by providing some respite from your membership fees, in the form of a waiver.

To access assistance, contact the Association via email at gensec@nswnma.asn.au or call our Membership Team directly during office hours on (02) 8595 1234.

The NSWNMA has also donated $10,000 towards flood relief.