Dec 06, 2022

Vulnerable aged care residents evacuated due to rising floodwaters

Vulnerable aged care residents evacuated due to rising floodwaters
An ambulance picks up Renmark aged care residents. [Source: Twitter]

Aged care residents at the Renmark Paringa District Hospital in South Australia’s Riverland region have been forced to relocate as floodwaters continue to swell in the River Murray.

SA has experienced record daily flows over the past week as water from recent flooding in New South Wales and Victoria travels down the 2,508km river.

While local residents and farmers prepare for the worst, one group of vulnerable aged care residents have been evacuated to nearby towns of Loxton and Barmera to ensure their safety ahead of peak flows.

Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network (LHN) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Wayne Champion, told the ABC that the first phase of their relocation plan involved 21 of the Hospital’s most vulnerable residents being moved. 

“Over the past 24 hours the height of the river has reached the level which SA Health pre-determined would require planned gradual relocation of the most vulnerable residents,” said Mr Champion.

“Riverland Mallee Coorong LHN has a high level [of] confidence in the work the Renmark Paringa District Council has completed in strengthening the hospital levee.

“However, we have a number of vulnerable aged care residents who are mobility impaired in the Renmark Paringa District Hospital’s aged care facility, who would be difficult to evacuate quickly, with a staged relocation the much preferred option.”

Following the evacuation of 21 residents, a further 60 remain at the Renmark Paringa District Hospital. 

They are likely to remain at the facility, although South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, told the ABC they are likely to be moved in the “coming week or two” now that the first group of residents are safe.

“The levee around the hospital is probably the strongest and widest levee in the state and it’s been significantly reinforced recently,” said Ms Spurrier.

“There are engineers that go and review the levee to check that it’s all in place on a daily basis. So we feel very confident that the asset of the hospital is very well protected.

“But because of the vulnerability of these particular residents, where they’re situated in the hospital, the fact that it would be really difficult to move them if you needed to do it more quickly – we’re doing this in a precautionary way.”

This is not the first time this year that aged care residents have been evacuated to safety due to threatening floodwaters, residents at Victoria’s Rochester & Elmore Districts Health Service (REDHS) aged care and hospital facility also experienced an evacuation due to rising floodwaters in Rochester.

Baptcare’s Northaven facility was lucky to avoid any damage when it was cut off and surrounded by flooding with all residents “calm in the face of the flooding news”.

In SA, the River Murray is expected to reach a peak flow of 180 gigalitres around December 14, with the current 150 gigalitre flow the highest volume it’s seen in SA since the 1970s. A second peak is expected to arrive between December 24 and 31.

Experts believe up to 4,000 properties could be impacted by severe flooding, although many of those include shacks and sheds, and 2 million sandbags are set to be handed out in the coming days. 

The South Australian Government has announced that it will step in with a $1.2 million commitment to help close to 500 displaced River Murray residents who will have to relocate.

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