PAC responds to the bushfire crisis

February 12, 2020

The recent bushfires have seen New South Wales in a state of emergency for months and made global headlines around the world. More than 19 million hectares of bush have been burned, more than 6000 buildings have been destroyed, more than 33 people have died and over one billion animal lives have been lost. Even with the recent heavy rains, bushfires are still burning in some parts of the state.

These tragic bushfires have impacted parts of PAC’s operations and many of our staff and clients. In particular, PAC’s South West Sydney Home Care services were substantially impacted by the Green Wattle Creek and Bargo fires.

Patricia Marchant, Southern Region manager and the PAC Client Care Support Team headed by Liza Nieto swung immediately into action when the bushfires broke out contacting PAC clients.

“Our Home Care clients started being affected on 19 December. We had to cancel some services because it was unsafe or roads were closed. We reached out to 40 Home Care clients who were directly impacted, calling clients and family members one by one to make sure our clients were safe, to find out what evacuation plans they had in place if the need arose, and whether they needed any extra assistance,” said Liza. “We’ve also worked through the weekend on occasion maintaining contact with clients – it’s been all hands on deck! I’m really proud of the Care Support Team for the way they’ve responded to the bushfire emergency and how they’ve risen to the occasion.”

As well as PAC Home Care clients, many PAC Home Care staff were personally affected by the bushfires. Jacqueline Rhodes, a member of the care staff in the SWS Home Care Services team lives in Tahmoor – a town which had an evacuation order in place at the end of December due to the Green Wattle Creek fire. Jacqueline also lost a property she owned in an adjacent town due to the fires.

“Being directly affected by the bushfires myself meant that I was able to identify and empathise with PAC Home Care clients in a similar position,” Jacqueline said. “I know first-hand what it is like to face closed roads, the fear of approaching fires, evacuations and property loss. It’s a very tough situation to be in. You are living on tenterhooks, you don’t know what is going to happen next.”

One of PAC’s Home Care clients in the Southern Highlands is largely confined to a wheelchair. When her home was evacuated due to the bushfires she initially organised accommodation with friends on Sydney’s North Shore but because the home was not wheelchair accessible, basic needs like showering became difficult. Her medication also began running out and she wasn’t getting the ongoing care she needed and as a result her health began declining. PAC’s Home Care team immediately reached out to staff at PAC Thornleigh – our newly redeveloped residential aged care home – to arrange respite accommodation in the facility.

Her daughter Antonia said she was incredibly grateful for PAC’s help. “I’m very impressed with PAC. The turnaround and the response to get her into some care was immediate and I was very grateful. She went into a brand new room and they accommodated us really quickly which was fantastic.”

PAC’s CEO Paul Sadler praised PAC’s staff for their response, “PAC is immensely proud of all our staff and volunteers who helped out during the bushfire emergency despite some staff being directly affected themselves.”

“Some people questioned whether calls to prayer were an appropriate response from some of our national leaders. As a Christian organisation, PAC absolutely believes that God is in control of everything and that praying to Him is a right and proper response to the circumstances people were facing,” Paul Sadler said.

Commenting on the possible role of climate change in the severity of this year’s bushfires, Paul Sadler said, “Climate change is real. And humans are responsible for it. For PAC, this reality is compounded by the particular vulnerability of older people to a hotter climate with more extreme weather events. PAC is committed to doing our bit to help tackle climate change by operating sustainably and improving our energy efficiency. Some of the things we are doing include:

  • Retrofitting air conditioning in older buildings
  • All new buildings will utilise solar power
  • Installing energy efficiency measures in both new and existing buildings”