November 23rd, 2023Sometimes the universe…
Sometimes the universe puts the right people in the right places – and on the day of the (tragic Daylesford) accident (Sunday, November 5) more than a dozen off-duty healthcare professionals from across the state were in the vicinity.
They all stepped up and without hesitation the emergency medical response was underway. Many of the healthcare professionals are employed by Central Highlands Rural Health.
Speaking with Community Health & Wellbeing operations manager Shane Richardson (pictured above), it’s obvious he is emotional about the past couple of weeks, when expressing how proud and inspired he is by those who provided immediate care for the victims and witnesses to this tragic event.
Funded by the state Department of Health, CHRH is the lead agency for delivering the psychosocial health response, and working together with Hepburn Shire Council, CHRH had established a drop-in mental health support space in Raglan Street within 24 hours of the event.
Over the first week, a team of seven counsellors helped 64 people either with face-to-face or over the phone counselling. There had been a move to close at the end of the working week but the decision was made to continue over the weekend to be available to support community attending Remembrance Day services and mourners visiting the scene from Melbourne’s Indian and Sikh communities.
“Our counsellors were present and available every day for the whole week. We saw people as they needed help, there was no barrier to seeking support. Many people who came in opened up with ‘I need to talk to someone’.”
Mr Richardson said more than 120 hours of direct care and follow up, was provided during this time, with people able to return multiple times. “We had a combination of counsellors available; mental health accredited social workers, drug and alcohol counsellors and trauma-informed practitioners. We were also very fortunate and appreciative that we had current and former staff make themselves available to ensure that we had the best fit for the nature of the event. All have strong trauma-informed experience.”
Mr Richardson said other community agencies also supported his organisation and staff with Uniting, and Ballarat Community Health providing additional key workers. “The community health organisations just came together and worked seamlessly, and everyone was looking out for each other, ready to respond.”
A number of trauma debriefings have been held taking in healthcare-based first responders and staff from directly impacted hospitality businesses. There is a calendar of future debriefing/support gatherings planned in consultation with those most affected. “We will be there when people are ready – whether that is this week, next week, next month or next year. We have a commitment from Uniting to continue providing key worker support from now until whenever it is no longer needed.”
Along with his staff and other healthcare workers, Mr Richardson has high praise for emergency services including Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police, the various local CFA crews who turned out, Springs Medical and Hepburn Shire Council.
Mr Richardson said the Council of Churches and Red Cross support workers had also done a wonderful job reaching out to people for a week.
“Further, VicPol has been amazing, continuing to have an active police presence focused on supporting the community recovery. And the community has been amazing as well – witnesses who just stepped in to help any way they could that night. People like our healthcare workers, who were out enjoying a Sunday night.
“This event has had a profound impact on many people – it is the most traumatic community event I have been involved in – and we have faced some pretty challenging times over the years. Being such a public location, with hospitality workers and visitors from many countries present at the time, the impact has been felt so widely. We have fielded calls seeking support from across the country. And of
course, with the Indian and Sikh communities – it is sadly worldwide. The incident’s scale and reach are phenomenal.
“The fundamental thing for me is that everyone has worked collaboratively, at the top of their game, and made sure they are listening to the needs of the community. The community wanted a vigil and a vigil was organised, they wanted a church service and we had one. The council and every agency involved is listening, sharing and collaborating to best respond to what the community is indicating they need.”
Mr Richardson said while it was “a terrible, terrible incident”, to watch people stepping forward to help in any way was the most rewarding thing he had seen in a 25-year career in healthcare. “Our community has just been amazing.”