“Like a war zone”: Western Sydney health heroes commended for devastating bushfire service

iPM application specialist Paul Moloney received a citation for his role in the Westmead Bushfire Emergency Team.

As every day heroes are tending to the flood recovery across NSW, this time last year our health heroes were helping those impacted by the disastrous east coast bushfires.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Mental Health Services registered nurse Eliza Zhao was on the ground in early 2020 to comfort, counsel and console people affected by the fires.

“It was like a war zone – everything was burnt to the ground and the smoke was everywhere,” Eliza said.

“Many people had lost their homes, businesses, livelihoods, pets and farming stock and were in shock and scared.”

Eliza Zhao provided mental health support to those affected by the devastating blazes.

Eliza was based at the Batemans Bay Evacuation Centre for 10 days and helped around 100 people who were psychologically affected and traumatised by the devastating fires.

“I was really impressed by the camaraderie and support networks available and sometimes all it took was a cup of coffee, a listening ear and the reassurance that their pets were safe.

“I love helping people and it’s why I recently helped returning Australians who had contracted COVID-19 overseas and were in hotel quarantine.”

Registered nurse Evan Ferdous was also part of the Westmead Bushfire Emergency Team.

WSLHD staff, including Eliza, were recognised for their extraordinary contributions and roles in the emergency response of the bushfires – being awarded the NSW Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation this week.

WSLHD Chief Executive Graeme Loy congratulated staff for putting the needs of others above their own during a ceremony at Westmead Hospital.

“Everyone here today has a story to tell from helping fighting fires to helping people get through traumatic time before COVID-19,” Graeme said.

“The catastrophic conditions impacted lives, communities, property and the environment on an unprecedented scale before COVID-19.

“Thank you all and this citation serves as a reminder of your dedication to the people of NSW and a symbol of the state’s gratitude.”

Congratulations and thanks to:

  • Colin Anlezark – Fire Safety Manager, WSLHD 
  • Kathy Audley – Nurse Unit Manager, Mental Health Services
  • Alan Barnes – Security Officer, Blacktown Hospital
  • Tracey Brown – Nurse Educator, Auburn Hospital 
  • Andrew Callaghan – ICT Manager
  • Emma Davies – Registered Nurse, Emergency Department, Westmead Hospital
  • Nicholas Dunne – Registered Nurse, Mental Health Services 
  • Evan Ferdous – Registered Nurse, Emergency Department, Westmead Hospital
  • Caren Friend – Counter Disaster Coordinator, WSLHD
  • Jill Harris – Director Radiation Therapy, Westmead Hospital
  • Nicholas Howson – Registered Nurse, WSLHD Mental Health Services
  • Neralee Jeffrey – former Clinical Nurse Consultant, Emergency Department, Auburn Hospital
  • Paul Moloney – iPM Application Specialist, Digital Health Solutions
  • Andrew Moore – Security Manager, WSLHD
  • Jason Noonan – Security Officer, Westmead Hospital
  • Rizvan Patel – Nurse Unit Manager, Blacktown Mental Health Services
  • Susanne Reynolds – Nurse Practitioner, WSLHD Mental Health Services 
  • Lorraine Tesoriero – Senior Policy Officer, NSW Health
  • Dr Kavita Varshney – Staff Specialist, Emergency Department, Westmead Hospital
  • Jason Walker – Preventive Maintenance Coordinator, Cumberland Hospital
  • Phillip Walters – Security Officer, Blacktown Hospital 
  • Eliza Zhao – Registered Nurse, WSLHD Mental Health Services

The citation is a lapel badge with a rectangular silver framed navy-blue bar, a red stripe to signify the bushfire event, and the NSW state flower, Waratah.