Staff with a disability join fight against COVID-19

Mask packers at Westmead Hospital (seated, from left) Marica Uremovic, Gabriel Bechara and Shivakumar Manohar and hospital assistant Antonio Talens (back left) are visited by Allied Health director Jaqueline Dominish, occupational therapy manager Sharon Millanta, Corporate Services director Renata Melan and chief executive Graeme Loy.

Staff and visitors across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) are in good hands with these enthusiastic workers.

Each week the team packs about 140,000 surgical masks for distribution to departments and hospital entrances to ensure everyone can wear a mask in all public areas.

WSLHD worked with At Work Australia to employ 16 people for this essential task. All of the people employed have varying levels of ability and have worked with their managers to ensure that reasonable adjustments have been made in the workplace to help them to do their job well.

The part-time workers received orientation to their workplaces at Westmead Hospital and Blacktown Hospital, as well as infection control and prevention training. 

Among them is Shivakumar “Shiv” Manohar, who has previously worked in patient records at Nepean Hospital and volunteered at Windsor Hospital.

Shivakumar Manohar has enjoyed securing his first job in health after previous volunteer work at other hospitals.

“The work is pretty straightforward but it’s a good foot in the door,” Shiv said.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know the team. We converse while we’re here and get along well.”

Shiv has also enjoyed utilising Westmead Hospital’s health club, and continues to look for other health work utilising his mathematical and tech skills.

He has a savant-like gift for being able to name the day of the week that any date in history falls on within a matter of seconds.

Disability workforce coordinator Sandra Cuneo praised the team for their “absolutely essential” work.

“Keeping our staff, patients and visitors safe is so important, and we are very lucky to have this new team join our workforce to perform this laborious task.”

WSLHD People and Culture director Luci Caswell said there may be other work opportunities for the team after masks are no long needed.

“We are grateful and thankful for the hard work and commitment these new team members have shown since they started with us in September,” she said.

NSW Health recommends wearing a mask in any setting where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transport or during medical appointments.

Stayed informed with the latest COVID-19 news and updates at the NSW Health website.