Oct 14, 2022

As flood waters rise, aged care facilities remain resilient

14_10_2022 SES
Many towns have been evacuated due to rising flood waters in Rochester and surrounding areas of regional Victoria. [Source: VIC SES Twitter]

Over the past two days, 64 aged care residents in Rochester, Victoria, have been evacuated to safety and housed across the community, thanks to good planning by their facility as flood waters rise in the area.

Staff of the Rochester & Elmore District Health Service (REDHS) aged care and hospital facility were relatively cheerful and showed strength after a successful evacuation process.

Victoria has experienced a deluge of rain since Wednesday, putting many regional communities on high alert for flooding.

Some towns have even had to fully evacuate due to the major flooding risk, including Rochester which has the Campaspe River running through the township.

The Victorian State Emergency Service (SES) expects the flood waters to continue rising over the next day and peak in Rochester late Saturday afternoon.

Karen Laing, Chief Executive Officer of REDHS, said that she has been so proud of her staff and how they have handled themselves over the two day evacuation of the hospital and aged care facility.

Ms Laing explained that the last time the aged care facility was evacuated due to flooding was in 2011, where the flooding lapped at the door but didn’t go past the front step into the facility.

Now, REDHS is expecting the facility to be inundated with water and sustain damage from the flooding.

REDHS evacuated 13 residents who volunteered to leave on Wednesday, in preparation for flooding, and the residents are being housed in neighbouring aged care facilities with spare beds and staff to accommodate them.

However, the decision was made to fully evacuate the facility on Thursday morning. Ms Laing said they made the call to emergency services at 8 am for assistance and had an ongoing convoy of ambulances arrive from 1 pm to start transferring two residents at a time.

Additionally, a local bus company provided a bus and volunteers to get the other 45 residents to safer locations, as well as a community transport service with volunteers assisting with moving residents.

While the temporary facilities housing residents are not aged care, but rather acute settings at Goulburn Valley Health and Bendigo Health, Ms Laing said she was so proud of the self-less acts of REDHS staff members who offered to be deployed to these locations to provide consistent and familiar faces to their displaced residents.

Around ten of the residents are part of the memory support unit at REDHS, so Ms Laing said the familiar faces of staff will likely reduce their anxiety while they are in unfamiliar environments.

“[They are] amazing, those staff have left their own properties here locally in Rochester and surrounds, and have gone to look after their residents and relocated themselves,” she explained.

“They are not in touch with what is going on with their own properties and their own families, which is just an amazing sacrifice they have made, it’s just terrific.

Through the hard work of the staff, Ms Laing said they were able to lock the doors of the facility at 6 pm as planned, which worked perfectly since the Highway between Bendigo and Rochester was closed by 6.30 pm – if they were still evacuating, they would have had to reroute residents at the last minute.

REDHS will be monitoring the flood situation to see when residents and staff can return to the facility. However, it will be dependent on the damage sustained to the building.

Ms Laing explained that though they aimed to have residents back in the facility by Monday and Tuesday, she expects it will most likely be by the end of next week – and more rain is predicted thereafter.

“It will certainly be a longer process to get [residents] back in than it was to get them out,” added Ms Laing.

How has your aged care facility managed with recent flooding? Tell us in the comments below.

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