The dedication and commitment of Lithgow Hospitals staff to their job has been honoured by general manager Jill Marjoram at a small ceremony on Tuesday, January 22.
Jill spoke about how staff did double shifts working 14 hours straight, while others worked outside their usual duties to help cover staff who were unable to do their shift due to the fires.
Apparently some staff even went home briefly to gather some things and returned to the Hospital, while others worked outside their usual roles.
As result of this dedication the Hospital remained opened during the emergency and provided an essential service to residents and the firefighters who were presenting with injuries.
"Many of the staff live here in Lithgow so they weren't available to come into work, which meant staff who had time off were called in," Ms Marjoram said.
"Other staff who had put their fire plans into place and left their homes decided to come to work instead."
"There are so many examples of the amazing contributions from hospital staff."
On Wednesday, December 18 the hospital had a meeting to plan for Thursday, December 19 and Saturday, December 21 which were dubbed as catastrophic.
"So we had to work out who is here, not here, and plan for what was to come..."
"...we had no idea we would lose all the roads," she said.
We didn't get much sleep during that period, and we learnt a lot about ourselves and each other.
"Lithgow is quite unique because we have multiple roads in and out and we have plans in place for certain road closures but when they all went, it was all impacted."
Ms Marjoram explained that the community health nurses couldn't visit their patients, that travel as far out of town as Dargan.
"We had an obligation to our staff that they needed to be safe and we need to know where they are, not on some back road that could close due to fire," she said.
"So patients came and stayed at the hospital for their care.
"We also had patients who had to stay and couldn't get home due to road closures."
Just when the hospital staff thought they were in the thick of it, a higher power threw one more challenge at them.
No phones or internet for 24 hours, before going 10 days with basic systems.
"After the fire went past us it took out our phones and internet, and while our systems are separate to town we lost majority of our communication systems," she said.
"We were already under pressure with our capacity and not being able to get people in and out and everything else going on, it was the last thing we needed.
"It just created an environment where you are just trying to survive with working systems."
But that didn't stop the staff from getting on with the job at hand.
"We didn't get much sleep during that period, and we learnt a lot about ourselves and each other," she said.
"We also learnt what to do and not do again during an emergency period."
Ms Marjoram said while this type of dedication would be acknowledged year round, the fact that it was Christmas time gave it a new level of commitment.
"We just have amazing staff, I couldn't be prouder," she said.
Ms Marjoram said that while the RFS were and did amazing things, waiting for them to come into the hospital with injuries wasn't the focus of Lithgow Hospital.
"It was the basic function of keeping the ward safe and those residents who need our care," she said.
"We were just exhausted by the end of it."
It wasn't until late Christmas Eve that the hospital knew they could stand down.
"It was at that moment I just thought we need to find time to invite people and thank them for what they did during that period," she said.
Even in the aftermath of the fire, people couldn't be discharged due to road closures and falling trees.
In a time of crisis, someone has to take on the responsibility of representing 'health' in the fire control centre, and that job went to Bronwyn Boyling the director of nursing and midwifery.
"I was representing health, so in the command centre I learnt what was happening and could discuss what we [Lithgow Hospital] could offer, what was needed of us and what we needed," she said.
"It was really beneficial for us to be there."
Ms Boyling said that being in the centre allowed them to piece it all together and prepare them for what was coming.
"We then knew where to watch and what would be needed from us, it just set us up to manage the Hospital better," she said.
"It was great to be able to come back from the centre and see the hospital being run beautifully," she said.
Ms Boyling spent half of the first day up at the centre and then the next day on and off for 12 hours and then when the fire exploded in Lithgow on Saturday, December 21 no one left the centre from 8am until 8pm.
"It was a steep learning curve but we are well educated, Jill [Marjoram] and I work well together so the consultation ran smoothly." she said.
When the phones went down Ms Boyling said staff stayed calm and got on with the job.
"We have protocol in that situation so staff fell into that and we had personal phones so we made it work," she said.
"I got fit in those days just walking everywhere to relay messages."
Ms Boyling said that patients were 'great' and 'very appreciative' of hospital staff.
It was asking employees to give up family Christmas and to stay and do the right thing.
"I think seeing the same people for long periods of time would have given them some kind of comfort," she said.
Ms Boyling said the hardest part of it all was the crisis happening so close to Christmas.
"It was asking employees to give up family Christmas and to stay and do the right thing," she said.
"Everyone gave up something in that time."
One of those people was nurse manager Elizabeth Soper said that she was sitting at home on her day off when she was called in.
"When the boss calls, you don't say no," she joked.
Ms Soper came in at 12pm and worked until 2am then went home came back in at 4am and worked through to 8pm and then again from 3am until 9.45pm.
"I was part of the disaster team, so we prepped the triage room and worked well together to make sure everything was ready," she said.
Ms Soper who recently celebrated her 45th anniversary of being a nurse said that it was good to see everyone stand together.
"The ones that could get to the hospital did and they just did it no questions asked, then they would go home and come back again," she said.
One of my colleagues even got a police escort from her home because she wanted to come in to work, the dedication was incredible to see.
"Everyone just pulls together, nobody asks they just do."
Ms Soper said from administration staff to doctors, nurses, surgeons and pharmacy staff, everyone was 'hands on deck'.
"One of my colleagues even got a police escort from her home because she wanted to come in to work, the dedication was incredible to see."
While losing computers made things difficult for staff, no one complained, Ms Soper said.
"That was a disaster, wondering what was going on, especially with the back logs of things but we all got paid in the end so can't complain," she said.