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Mercy Health staff appreciate ‘snazzy masks’ made by Sisters

From left to right MHW Nurse Unit Manager Christine Wittwer, Infection Prevention & Control Consultant Eleanor Wilkes receive the boxed masks from Tzu Chi volunteers Michelle Mak and Mei Cockerall


Staff of Mercy Health have expressed their appreciation at the ‘snazzy’ face masks made for them by Sisters of Mercy. Staff are also grateful to the Tzu Chi Foundation who have contributed to the mask effort.  


For Victorians, 2020 has been a year like no other with the coronavirus pandemic causing the tragic passing of family members, for others the loss of jobs and day-to-day businesses  – even the state’s schoolchildren have been left confused without the regular routines of classroom study and school ground fun.


Melbourne’s usually bustling highways and streets are close to being deserted and the locals have even had to come to terms with the mandatory wearing of personal face marks. It’s been a difficult and disconcerting time.


But out of adversity has seen some wonderful acts of generosity from all points of the compass.


As we reported last month, and as might be expected, the Sisters of Mercy across Australia were quick to react, asking what they could do to support Victorians.


At the same time, an organisation with a Buddhist heritage, the Tzu Chi Foundation asked similar questions and it meant between the two organisations more than 4,000 masks were distributed to 20 of Mercy Health’s Victorian residential aged care homes, while Mercy Hospital for Women at Heidelberg was also a grateful recipient.


The Sisters enthusiastically and skilfully crafted 2,000 masks, prompting widespread gratitude from all homes as far afield as Colac in the state’s Western Districts, and back to inner city’s Mercy Place Abbotsford and then to the bayside city suburb of Sandringham.


Mercy Place Fernhill’s Service Manager Josh Wonder, who oversees the Sandringham home, said the crafted masks were stylish and therefore staff were ‘very quick to put their hands up.’


“I told our staff that they were complimentary and a short time later, I checked the room where they’d been left and they were all gone,” Josh laughed.


It was a similar story at Mercy Place Abbotsford and Colac.


Service Manager at Colac, Toni Cuthbertson, said her staff proudly wore their masks from their homes to work and they also changed into them at the end of their shift.


“They knew they’d been hand crafted by the Sisters and the neat workmanship drew lots of positive comment,” Toni said.


Mercy Place Abbotsford Service Manager Nicola Jordan said there were a number of young members among her team and they had also agreed that the Sisters’ masks were ‘rather snazzy’.


“The masks are for their personal use but come the end of a shift many are very quick to change from their work mask into the Sisters’ creations,” Nicola said.


Earlier, Group CEO of Mercy Health Adjunct Professor Stephen Cornelissen said it was just so characteristically practical of the Sisters to come up with a quick and positive reaction to Victoria’s predicament.


During the course of 2020, including during the state’s horrific bushfire season, Tzu Chi Foundation distributed more than 20,000 masks to a number of Victoria’s emergency services, including Victoria Police.


Founded 53 years ago by a Buddhist nun, the foundation has grown into a major volunteer charity worldwide, with branches now in 60 countries and a network of support benefitting populations in 90 countries.


Nurse Unit Manager of MHW’s Central Sterilising Service Christine Wittwer said the masks could not have been more gratefully received and had been shared among the hospital’s patients, visitors and some staff.


“Personal protective equipment is a critical asset. These particular masks met the highest of protection standards and we are indebted to the support of the Foundation,” Christine said


The Foundation was introduced to Mercy Health’s Mater Hospitals in Queensland in the mid-1990s.


After discussions with the Sisters of Mercy it was felt that Mercy Hospital for Women would be an appropriate Melbourne partner for the Tzu Chi Foundation.


With the challenging and threatening circumstances continuing to face Victorians, the Mercy Health community, particularly its frontline workers, are grateful for the support of two diverse groups.


The boxes arrive at Mercy Hospital for Women


Staff from Mercy Place Abbotsfield, Colac and Fernhill proudly display their masks.

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