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W.H. woman honored for helping put out hospital fire

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Two South Nassau Communities Hospital employees — Anna Gornicz, of West Hempstead, and Jose Madera, of Freeport — were honored recently with the Nassau County Fire Commission’s 2016 Civilian Award for their swift and heroic action to extinguish a fire in a patient care area of the hospital.

County Executive Edward Mangano and fire officials presented the pair with the awards at a ceremony on April 27 at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum in Garden City.

“South Nassau is proud and thankful that Anna and Jose followed their training to bravely and rapidly act to protect patients,” said Richard J. Murphy, the hospital’s president and CEO. “We always say we put patients first at South Nassau. The actions of Jose and Anna demonstrated that commitment in a crisis situation.”

Just after 9 p.m. on May 1, 2015, Madera, who had been arranging chairs in the hospital’s Conference Center, responded to the piercing sound of a smoke alarm coming from the building’s first floor. He and Gornicz were the first to arrive in a room occupied by two patients, where one of them had set fire to plastic items on an over-bed table.

Working with other hospital staff members, Gornicz and Madera safely evacuated the patients, who were unharmed, into the hallway. Then they went back into the room with a blanket, to smother the flames, and a fire extinguisher, to put the fire out. After dousing the flames, they closed the room’s door to keep smoke from spreading throughout the patient care unit.

“Were it not for the appropriate actions by Anna Gornicz and Jose Madera, there may have been a worse outcome for both patients, and possibly others,” said Joseph Mihalich, South Nassau’s director of facilities management.