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Quakers Hill nurses coming to grips with fire tragedy

Last Updated: 19-11-2013

Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire

Five nurses who were on duty at the time of the Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire have been dealing with emotions ranging from grief to disbelief and guilt in the wake of the tragedy, according to the nurses’ union.

NSW Nurses’ Association organising team manager Lisa Kremmer, who has been a nurse for 20 years and with the union for eight years, said she had never seen anything like the tragedy.

Ms Kremmer said the nurses involved were still coming to grips with the November 18 fire, which resulted in the deaths of nine of the home’s 88 elderly residents, has left another nine residents in intensive care while 22 are still being treated in hospital.

When asked how the nurses were coping, Ms Kremmer said: “I don’t know that they are”.

“They are extremely distressed,

perfectly understandably,” she said.

“One of the reactions is grief for the loss of the residents, that they felt were like family.

“They are incredulous about the charges of a colleague and there’s also a touch of guilt as well that some of the residents died, that they couldn’t get everyone out.

“There are some significant challenges for those workers to work through. We are strongly encouraging counselling, which their employer is providing.”
Ms Kremmer said the nurses have since taken time off work.

“To my knowledge they all remain off work and we are encouraging that they let their employer know that they don’t feel the need to go to work, if that is the case,” she said.

“If they feel the need to go to work, the employer will provide the appropriate shifts for them – and counselling is really important.”

Nurses and staff of the Quakers Hill Nursing Home joined families of the victims, emergency crews who attended the incident and residents who survived at a memorial service, held at the Quakers Hill Anglican Church on November 23.

Registered nurse Roger Kingsley Dean, 35, has been charged with eight counts of murder in relation to the blaze.

Dean elected to remain in cells during a brief mention of the matter at Central Local Court on November 24.

Dean opted not to apply for bail and the matter was adjourned to February next year.

Victims of the fire include Neeltje Valkay, aged 90, Doris Becke, 96, Alma Smith, 73, Lola Bennett, 86, Ella Wood, 97, Urbana Alipio, 79 and Caesar Galea, 82. Two victims are yet to be formally identified.

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