A Nowra healthcare staffing agency has received thousands of offers to help after it posted a plea for aged care staff on social media after fires prevented regular staff from being able to get to work.

Ross Thompson, managing director of the agency, posted a request on Facebook for experienced aged care registered nurses and care staff who could help from Monday to Friday this week. Transport would be provided, and staff would be paid.

“I am looking for any aged care staff who want to help out down south with aged care facilities that have been affected by the fires. If you are Cert III or Cert IV qualified, with current police check and minimum 12 months’ experience, please call us.”

“Accommodation and transport provided. Paid positions. Travel down will be Monday on bus. Will be a five-day deployment,” the post said.

When HelloCare’s Aged Care Workers Support Group shared Ms Martin’s post, it received dozens of likes and shares.

“I can’t fight a fire, but I can help this way”

Meryn Martin, team leader with the agency, also issued the plea on Facebook to her friends who work in aged care. Her post went viral, reaching tens of thousands of viewers, and receiving thousands of offers of help.

Ms Martin took a moment out of her busy morning to speak to HelloCare. With the roads just reopened around Nowra, her team was busy preparing for a bus to transport staff to the short-staffed facilities while they can.

“I myself can’t go and fight a fire, but I can help this way,” she told HelloCare.

Inundated with offers to help

The response to the callout for help has been “fantastic” Ms Martin told HelloCare. 

“I have been inundated with support and people willing to help.”

One woman left her home in Wagga at 4 o’clock this morning to be in Nowra in time for the buses to transport workers to the facilities in need.

So great is the need for staff, Mr Thompson has paid for flights out of his own pocket for qualified staff to get there in time. 

“My boss has been very generous,” Mr Martin said. “He’s been paying for plane flights, because I was desperate for registered nurses.”

“It’s been unbelievable,” Ms Martin said.

“Staffing are defending homes, or lost homes”

The first call for help came from an aged care facility on Saturday, when it found itself short staffed. Shortly afterwards, another two other local facilities issued calls for support.

Staff haven’t been able to get to work as they battle local fires in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

“Staff are defending their homes, or they’ve lost their homes,” Ms Martin explained. “They’ve lost family members, they’ve been evacuated, they’ve had to leave the town, so the nursing homes are running on a bare minimum.”

Australians pulling together in time of need

Ms Martin said the response to their callout has been nothing short of inspiring.

“I am so proud to be an Australian,” she said. “The way people have pulled together and want to help has been overwhelming.”

Ms Martin herself will be working on the floor later today.

“I’ve had two staff down there over the weekend to lend a hand… I’m going down myself. I’m prepared to work on the floor. I’m packed, ready to go. We’re just waiting on the transport.”

All staff rigorously checked

Despite it being an emergency situation, Ms Martin said she was still ticking all the boxes before sending staff out to work with aged care residents at a particularly difficult time. The residents may be stressed by the fires, or worried about an influx of unfamiliar staff.

“My job is to make sure everything is done correctly,” Ms Martin explained. “We don’t take anyone with less than 12 months’ experience, so when we do get there the staff know what they’re doing, and what’s expected. 

“I’ve just been checking credentials, making sure everything’s right, making sure we’ve got enough (staff) to go.” 

For HelloCare readers who would like to help, don’t call but please email nowra@workforcexs.com.au.

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