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Keeping Noah’s Ark afloat

Care Services Stories Community

In January 2020, bushfires ravaged the NSW South Coast. With the largest aged care presence in the region, IRT faced a catastrophic bushfire threat across seven sites. In this series of stories, we celebrate the courage, resilience and leadership of our employees, who kept our centres operating and our residents safe.

12 February 2020
Leanne Turner at IRT Moruya. (Credit: Andy Zakeli)

IRT Moruya Care Manager Leanne Turner brought her loyal staff in from annual leave and from evacuation centres to help care for residents, as fires threatened Moruya on New Year’s Eve. She managed the team at IRT Crown Gardens remotely, ensuring staff did not travel along the dangerous bushfire-prone roads between Moruya and Batemans Bay. During that time, IRT Moruya became known as Noah’s Ark, taking in evacuated residents from IRT Dalmeny, vulnerable local community members and an assortment of pets including three dogs, one bird and nine cats. Leanne’s team worked around the clock, for days on end. Their stories are awe-inspiring – double shifts, many days worked in a row. Husbands cleared rubbish. Children moved furniture.  Kitchen staff washed, dressed and fed residents. Everyone just pitched in.

The view from IRT Moruya as the bushfires closed in.

Leanne Turner: “I walked out the front of the centre on New Year’s Eve and saw the fire just roll over the mountains [to the west of Moruya]. Within 20 seconds the fire had come down the mountain. All I thought ‘wow, this is close!’ I ran inside and gathered all the team members. They are the heroes of my story. We started wetting towels and preparing our residents for possible evacuation. I’ve been in bushfires before. But a lot of the staff at both Moruya and Batemans Bay hadn’t. The four RNs who managed IRT Crown Gardens – Lidia Markose, Karhlo Vigare, Joann Manuel and Sheen De Guzman – are all new to Australia and they didn’t really even know what a bushfire was. How they managed Crown and all the staff, the hours they did and how they worked together was just phenomenal.”

IRT Moruya care workers Jenny Calver, Sarah McLelland, Trish Chapman, Gai Bennan. (Credit Andy Zakeli)
IRT Crown Gardens and IRT Moruya Registered Nurse Joann Manuel. (Credit Andy Zakeli)

Read more of the heroic stories from the NSW South Coast Bushfires

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