Year in Review 2021











message FROM the Chief executive

Our health system is only as good as its people and this year has shown what incredible, resilient and committed staff we have at Northern Sydney Local Health District and across the whole NSW Health system. It is hard to think of a year that tested our health system in the way we saw in 2020 and 2021 as we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. We had scores of our district staff step outside their normal roles and volunteer to help their colleagues in other parts of the state. We supported NSW Health’s Special Health Accommodation with many of our nursing and community health staff temporarily redeployed to assist. We had staff deployed in COVID-19 vaccination hubs, contact tracing units, testing centres and mobile clinics across Sydney. We had staff volunteer to work in remote NSW to assist vulnerable communities who were severely impacted through a COVID-19 outbreak, displaying an incredible generosity of spirit. The year clearly demonstrated that we may be one of the 15 local health districts but we are one health system. While COVID-19 dominated much of our decision-making and almost all of our services, it also gave our staff the opportunity to come together in a way we had not before, and find new models of care and ways of caring for our patients. We established the Virtual Hospital, in which patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are ‘admitted’ but remain at home, with regular care and welfare checks conducted by a team of doctors and nurses. This is one initiative that we are exploring to use for other services in the future which could treat and care for patients, without the need for a hospital stay. Our Information, Communication and Technology teams worked at an incredible pace to enable the COVID-19 services to be delivered. Hospital teams came together at Hornsby, Ryde, Royal North Shore and Mona Vale hospitals to reconfigure wards and departments to prepare for COVID-19 patients. Our People and Culture team worked to support our staff in trying times, including COVID-19 care teams, donned on their pink vests, available to support staff. In the background, our district continued to progress our capital works program, with the opening of the clinical services building at Hornsby Hospital as part of its $265 million redevelopment. Construction started on the $19.5 million Adolescent Young Adults Hospital, at the former Manly Hospital site. When completed it will be Australia’s first dedicated service for 15 to 24-year-old patients and will offer respite care, symptom management and end-of-life care. Meanwhile at Ryde Hospital, planning continued for its redevelopment, with feedback sought from the community and staff on what they would like to see in the future hospital development.

Mona Vale Hospital opened a dedicated 10-bed palliative care unit and a 10-bed geriatric evaluation and management unit. The district’s Planetary Health Committee continued to work on initiatives to make our hospitals and services more environmentally conscious and sustainable. Driven by staff, the committee is working to change how we work and to be at the forefront of a driven and sustainable health organisation. Our clinicians and researchers continued to make huge strides in innovations and cutting edge research with many attracting Commonwealth Government funding and grants. The Kolling Institute Research Strategy 2021-2025 was released, setting the strategic framework for the institute over the next five years and broadening the opportunities to achieve high quality translational research. While COVID-19 presented challenges to our healthcare system, it provided opportunities for our researchers to explore the virus and contribute to research on a global scale. Our researchers are participating in 41 COVID-19 studies which will help to provide vital evidence on how to treat and prevent the virus. Our consumers continue to play an important role in our services, from their contribution on our committees to working alongside clinicians, as evident in mental health and drug and alcohol services, where there are now 29 mental health peer worker consumers. We launched the Peer Worker Glad You Asked video, which showcases the wonderful peer workers who in their own words describe their valuable contribution to a mental health consumer’s journey. A consumer-centred website redesign was unveiled, making the district and hospital websites accessible and user-friendly. Following engagement with consumers and staff, the website was designed with a consumer-centric focus to improve engagement with our health services. It is remarkable to look back and see how much was achieved despite the many challenges we encountered with the COVID-19 pandemic, both professionally and personally. Despite the challenges presented to us, our staff have continued to offer first-class high-quality care to our patients, we have continued to build the hospitals our communities deserve, and as always placed our patients at the heart of everything we do. Each and every one of our staff should feel so very proud of everything that has been achieved.

Deb Willcox, Chief Executive Northern Sydney Local Health District



message FROM the board chair

Our district has marked some significant achievements this year, despite the continued challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the pandemic, the district, hospital executive teams and senior clinicians have harnessed cohesive teamwork and expertise under the strong, agile and compassionate leadership of Chief Executive Deb Willcox. This has enabled our staff from all corners of the district to continue to provide safe and high-quality care to patients, consumers and their families and carers, as well as contribute to the NSW Health system response and help our colleagues in other parts of the state. The Board is particularly proud of the resilience and resourcefulness shown by our staff and how the district has been able to strengthen and in some instances forge new working relationships with primary health providers and residential aged care facilities across the district. Work is underway to ensure that the learnings and innovations in the delivery of healthcare, both within a hospital setting and in the community, that we have gained from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic become part of our business-as-usual activities. This year the Board continued to progress its work on planetary health and climate change, which is a key priority area. In a significant step forward, the district has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2035 with most of the reduction – 70 to 80 per cent – to be achieved by 2030. This is an ambitious target but I am confident staff in all areas across the district will do their part to make this a reality. To help us reach this target, Dr Kate Charlesworth has been appointed as the Senior Medical Consultant, Planetary Health. The Board is looking forward to Kate helping the district to enhance planetary health and elevate the many environmentally sustainable initiatives already underway. Diversity, inclusion and belonging has remained another key priority area for the Board. The employee networks continue to meet and drive the diversity, inclusion and belonging agenda for the district. This year two additional networks were established – the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) group and women in leadership – and both have already started working on some important initiatives for staff.

The CALD network is looking into professional development opportunities for its members such as English courses available through TAFE focusing on speaking in plain English, accents and phonetics. The Women in Leadership network has been involved in the position statement for the district on zero tolerance against bullying, harassment and other unacceptable conduct and setting up domestic violence competency training for managers. Another significant achievement this year has been the development of the St Leonards Health Campus – Health, Education and Research Precinct Plan . The plan captures the vision to further develop public and private health services as well as education and research sectors into an integrated and innovative precinct. This provides an exciting environment for future investment, employment and innovation. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank all the staff for their commitment and contribution to our community and continuing to provide world class care to our patients. The Board looks forward to seeing what next year holds for the many great projects and initiatives underway.

Trevor Danos AM, Chair Northern Sydney Local Health District Board


The pandemic has changed the way we live; from being separated from loved ones, to not being able to enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures – COVID-19 has seemingly left no one unscathed. Behind the mask

(Left to right): Dr Mel Figtree, Jo Tallon, Dr Khairil Musa, Lili Dai and Thomas Paine pose with their photos of what they are most looking forward to returning to do after COVID-19

“My photo was taken in Western Australia on a four wheel drive and camping holiday from Broome to Darwin,” she said. “The highlights for us were the colours of the outback, seeing amazing Indigenous rock art, walking through gorgeous landscapes, cooling off in the non-crocodile inhabited waterholes, camping and not showering; the kids loved this.” District Director of Infection Prevention and Control Jo Tallon is another who has stood tall since the start of COVID-19. From the long days, which turned into long nights, responding to outbreaks at residential aged care facilities and our hospitals, Jo, who is pictured in Queenstown in New Zealand, says it is a relief to see us all on the right track after a busy period. “The pandemic has kept all of us in healthcare busy, but especially the Infection Prevention and Control teams,” she said. “We’ve literally fielded hundreds, probably thousands, of questions from staff across the district with regard to PPE, especially mask wearing, fit testing and COVID exposure risk assessment and all of them have had the safety and wellbeing of their patients, colleagues and families at heart. “It has been busy, it has been exhausting, but with everyone doing the right thing and looking after each other, we’ll all be back to doing the things we love like holidaying or seeing family in no time.”

Healthcare workers were affected more than most; while others worked from home and could largely avoid the risks of the virus – doctors, nurses, allied health staff and countless support staff had no choice but to stand up and hold firm on the front line. This year, personal protective equipment may have hidden the faces of staff, but the NSLHD Year in Review is showcasing the person behind the mask by asking our front cover healthcare heroes to submit a photo of something they have missed because of the pandemic. One of those is Royal North Shore Hospital intensive care doctor Khairil Musa. “Our hospitals and ICUs have been placed under immense pressure and while it’s been trying at times, I also get to witness the very best in action,” he said. Khairil spent the start of the pandemic a little differently to most others, having spent time working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Yemen and Iraq. Outside of work, Khairil has been a keen dancer since starting in primary school, and it is something he missed while tighter restrictions were in place across Sydney. “This photo was from a Tango performance I did at the Seymour Center in 2019,” he said. “I’m itching to get back into dancing once lockdown is over and encourage everyone to try a dance class or two.

“I can’t think of a more joyful activity and after the year(s) we’ve had we can definitely use a lot more positivity in the world.” Acting Head of Department for Orthotics at Royal North Shore Hospital TomPaine said he couldn’t wait to get back on thewater away fromhome with his sons Oscar, 5, and Fletcher, 3. “The photo was taken in Lake Macquarie in a beautiful spot we often go to,” he said. “Any chance to go to the lake and go kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on a free weekend with the kids, we try to take. “They have been a great leveller for me to try to leave the work stresses at work.” When nurse Lili Dai was not administering COVID-19 vaccinations, she yearned to be out in nature – something which tough COVID-19 restrictions took away from her. “The photo was taken when I had a bush walk to the tracks in Wentworth Falls,” she said. “I love bushwalking and I regularly go to the BlueMountains for leisure. Because I reside in an LGA of concern, I actually could not domuch outside of work apart from staying at home and soaking myself in TV dramas. Going back to the mountains is the first thing onmy to-do list out of lockdown.” Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Staff Specialist Dr Mel Figtree has been at the forefront of the district’s COVID-19 response since it began – but she has one eye on being able to travel as a family once again.



NSLHD response and management of COVID-19

For Intensive Care Specialist Dr Celia Bradford, the COVID-19 crisis is the “single most” challenging time in her 20 year career in intensive care. Working in Royal North Shore Hospital’s (RNSH) intensive care unit, Celia is part of a team of medical specialists who are treating COVID-19 patients, many of them young. RNSH, Ryde and Hornsby Ku-ring-gai hospitals are caring for COVID-19 patients as part of NSW Health’s whole-of-system pandemic response, supporting the Sydney Health Accommodation (SHA) and western Sydney hospitals which were treating a high volume of patients where community transmission remains high. As part of NSLHD’s response, the dedicated COVID-19 ward has opened in the Douglas Building at RNSH. With 55 beds, the ward is designed to care for low risk patients who may have COVID-19 or who are transitioning back to their homes or aged care facilities.

(Left to right) Dr Amanda White and Dr Celia Bradford scrubbed ready to put a patient on dialysis

Built last year, the ward supports the acute services where ICU and respiratory departments are treating COVID-19 patients who require extra support. “Patients are consumed by this disease: it takes over every part of their body,” Celia said. Deputy Head of Intensive Care Dr Sarah Wesley encouraged anyone still undecided about vaccination or who was yet to get vaccinated to do so. “COVID-19 patients are spending a very long time in ICU,” she said.

“Unlike patients with pneumonia and other diseases who might spend a few days, our COVID-19 patients, particularly those who are on life support or some type of breathing machine, they are spending two to four weeks at a minimumwith us. “The biggest message from healthcare workers working

frontline looking after COVID-19 patients is to get vaccinated as soon as you can.”

At Hornsby, the hospital has enacted its COVID-19 plan with its ICU seeing a number of patients with COVID-19. Across the district, nurses and other health professionals have temporarily stepped out of their normal roles to work in the SHA.


First COVID-19 jabs for NSLHD staff

Registered nurse Abi Pidgeon was among the first members of staff from Northern Sydney Local Health District to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in February. Abi works at Royal North Shore Hospital’s emergency department and was joined by around 200 of her colleagues from nursing, medical, allied health and support staff, including cleaners, porters and clerical staff, to receive their

Abi Pidgeon receives her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

“I am so glad we finally reached this day – it has been so long coming with COVID-19 having an effect on all of us both professionally but also personally. “Even though COVID-19 has changed so much of how we do life, it’s incredible to think that this is the start of things slowly moving towards the new norms of life post COVID-19. “I am so proud to be a part of that!” The COVID-19 vaccine was made available to those most in need of protection first. Quarantine workers and emergency department staff, like Abi, were identified among the priority groups.

NSLHD Chief Executive Deb Willcox said the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out to priority groups first and was then made available to all staff and the broader community. “We have been immensely fortunate in NSW to be able to deliver the vaccine with a staged approach,” she said. “Thank you to everyone involved in the massive logistical effort to get the staff COVID-19 vaccination program up and running. “This truly is a historic and exciting time for us all.”

vaccinations on the first day. Abi was one of more than 880

district staff scheduled to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Westmead Vaccination Hub in the first week of the roll out. Abi said the process of receiving her vaccination was smooth, seamless and painless. “It was a momentous occasion going with a group of my wonderful colleagues to get the vaccine,” she said. “I think I speak on behalf of us all to say that we are incredibly proud to be part of this little piece of history.

RNs Anny Chen, Ching Ng, and Won Kook from Ryde ED wait to receive their jab

Ryde Hospital environment services staff Karen and Dario received their vaccinations



NSLHD targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2035 Northern Sydney Local Health District has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2035, with most of the reduction – 70 to 80 per cent – to be achieved by 2030.

The bold target has been set to engage, unite and inspire staff in all areas across the district to focus on a unified ambition and establish NSLHD as a leader in reducing carbon emissions. NSLHD’s Senior Medical Consultant, Planetary Health, Dr Kate Charlesworth, said planetary health is an issue that many staff care deeply about and are eager to engage with. “There is substantial and growing evidence demonstrating the health, equity – climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable – financial and reputational benefits for health organisations leading on carbon reduction and planetary health initiatives,” Kate said. “This is an ambitious target, but it is based on Australian modelling and the overwhelming scientific evidence that rapid decarbonisation is needed to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. We need to lead the way and hone in on what we can be doing to ensure that sustainability is part of the conversation in everything we do.” To reach its target, NSLHD has focused on five priority domains – sustainable organisation, waste management and resource recovery, capital works and procurement, people and places, and models of care. Kate said getting to net zero will require action from every staff

member across every area of our district. “Renewable energy, LED lights and building design are part of the solution, but we also need to look at innovative procurement and circular economy solutions, reduce low-value care, and optimise medicine use considering pharmaceuticals are almost 20 per cent of the Australian health system’s carbon footprint,” she said. “We can also look at developing zero-carbon models of care in all our services and reduce the use of super-pollutants including anaesthetic gases, nitrous oxide and the hydrofluorocarbons in asthma inhalers.” Chief Executive Deb Willcox said she hoped the overarching target

would empower staff to bring more sustainability initiatives and ideas to the table. “To keep ourselves, families and communities healthy we need to actively play our part in keeping our environment healthy,” she said. “We already have many initiatives underway, driven by many staff, in making planetary health a priority in our district. “There is more work we can do to support you and drive this positive change and I look forward to working with you and reaching our net zero carbon emissions target.” NSW Health is establishing a climate risk reform program and climate risk has been elevated to one of the NSW Health Secretary’s priority areas.

Dr Kate Charlesworth who is leading the district’s planetary health initiatives


construction begins at new hospice

(Left to right): Health Infrastructure, Senior Project Director Henry Lau, Health Infrastructure Chief Executive Rebecca Wark, NSLHD Chief Executive Deb Willcox and NSLHD Board Chair Trevor Danos AM

Construction has commenced on Australia’s first $19.5 million dedicated palliative care hospice for young people living with an incurable illness.

Former Premier Gladys Berejiklian joined Member for Manly James Griffin and Federal Senator Andrew Bragg for the turning of the first sod in May. Generous donor Kay Van Norton Poche, who has made the project possible, also rolled up her sleeves and grabbed a shovel to mark the start of the works. Former Bear Cottage patients Matthew Van Hoek and Scott Green, young adults who live with serious illness, were also welcomed to the hospice site, which they will be able to visit upon its completion.

“Without places like this adult hospice, people like me don’t really have many places to go,” Scott said. Matthew’s mum Debbie Van Hoek said the new facility would provide a bridge for patients after they leave Manly’s Bear Cottage. “There will be the respite for Matthew and he will be able to go and see his friends,” she said. “It’s just going to make a world of difference to us.” Construction of the hospice is scheduled for completion in late 2022 and is funded by the NSW

and Federal governments as well as generous community donations. Health Infrastructure is working closely with the Northern Sydney Local Health District and expert clinicians to deliver the hospice, which will be located at the former Manly Hospital site on the North Head headland. For further information and to support the Adolescent and Young Adult Hospice, visit



Supportive care nurse provides bridge between cardiology and palliative care

Nurse Practitioner Kelly with patient Vincenzo

For Vincenzo Tassone, his independence has always been important and he wasn’t going to let something like heart failure keep himoff his feet for too long.

The former Willoughby fruit shop owner has benefited from working with Cardiac Supportive Care Transitional Nurse Practitioner Kelly Hanvey, allowing him to live at home with his wife Barbara at his side and avoid hospital. Barbara said Kelly had proven a godsend, providing Vincenzo and herself with an outlet for questions and also acting as a conduit for other needs. “She’s been very good, she rings up and checks on him and we’ve been referred to other services as well,” Barbara said. “When he was in hospital, Kelly came to see him a couple of times but he’s managed to be out of hospital for quite a few weeks now while working with her.”

In the five short months since commencing in the role, Kelly has already seen benefits for patients like Vincenzo and countless others. “I’m here to help create that bridge between cardiology and palliative care,” Kelly said. “Heart failure patients are living a lot longer than they might have a few years ago, meaning older patients can be living with an increased symptom burden. Palliative care services are experts at managing some of those symptoms that patients with heart failure may have.” A cardiac nurse with more than 20 years of experience, Kelly’s new role involves everything from home visits to referring patients to services like physiotherapy, social work and OT.

Linking with Royal North Shore, Ryde and Hornsby hospitals, Kelly has developed a simple aim; starting the journey earlier to help make it easier. “We’re hoping to improve quality of life and symptom control for patients. We’re also hoping to reduce readmission rates into hospital and avoidance of ICU, develop collaborative and integrated services” she said. “It’s not about end-of-life care, it’s about supportive care and it should start at an earlier phase of the patient journey.” For more information on the cardiac supportive care model, please contact Kelly on 0427 312 302, 8am to 4.30pmMonday to Thursday.


Aussie first: project to establish full body imaging

Associate Professor Paul Roach (left) and Professor Dale Bailey (right)

Quick whole-body scans will soon be a reality at Royal North Shore Hospital. Australia’s first Total Body Positron Emission Tomography (TB-PET) scanner will be established in a joint venture between NSLHD and the University of Sydney.

The machine, which will be a flagship of the Australian Government’s National Imaging Facility (NIF), is expected to be operational by 2022. The $15 million TB-PET scanner project will greatly enhance Australia’s biomedical imaging capabilities, deliver improved patient outcomes and boost medical and health science research programs. Associate Professor Paul Roach, Clinical Director of Nuclear Medicine at NSLHD and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, said Royal North

Shore Hospital has a proud history of delivering world-class imaging to

a great outcome for all patients, especially children. “To have a facility in Australia where we can perform our clinical scans faster, produce superior quality images with less exposure to radiation in addition to having a dedicated research capability for researchers throughout Australia, will be a first.” Unlike traditional PET scanners, the TB-PET will capture the whole body in a single scan, allowing doctors to diagnose, guide treatment and track patient’s progress more accurately.

improve patient outcomes. “The TB-PET scanner will revolutionise patient care by

producing faster and higher quality clinical whole-body PET/CT scans compared with currently available scanners,” he said. “Patients will undergo their cancer scans in about a quarter of the time they take currently, with some scans taking only a couple of minutes. “There is also the benefit of lower radiation doses, which is



Palliative care unit opens at Mona Vale Staff with Board Chair Trevor Danos AM and CE Deb Willcox at the opening of the unit

In an historic moment for Mona Vale Hospital and the community, the Palliative Care and Geriatric Evaluation and Management building

“Our new specialised multidisciplinary palliative care team will give patients and their families real choice and support during what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times.” The building has two wings with a 10-bed Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) unit joining the 10 dedicated palliative care beds. “The GEM will provide early assessment and treatment for people experiencing health conditions associated with ageing, such as a tendency to fall, reduced mobility and cognitive impairment,” Jennifer said. “This is another important addition to our hospital, joining the urgent care, community health, diagnostic, rehabilitation and other speciality services.” Everything from the floor to ceiling was designed in conjunction with consumer and community groups,

and Northern Sydney Local Health District Chief Executive Deb Willcox was excited to see it come to life. “The fittings through to the artwork were selected in consultation with groups like Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care and Northern Beaches In-patient Palliative Care Working Group, so the unit can meet all the needs of those admitted,” she said. About 50 staff work at the facility across the disciplines of medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, clinical psychology, neuro-psychology, podiatry, speech pathology, dietetics, pharmacy, administration and environmental services. “It was a pleasure to meet some of the staff at the opening and I know they will contribute greatly to the lives of those needing care at one of the hardest, most challenging times of their life,” Deb said.

opened providing specialised services to local residents.

The new unit, which houses the two services, was officially opened to much fanfare with the Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and local MPs Rob Stokes and James Griffin. Mona Vale Hospital Acting General Manager Jennifer McConnell said the new services were important for so many reasons. “Patients nearing the final stages of life will be supported and cared for closer to home in this new, purpose-built facility,” she said.

(Left to right): Minister for Health Brad Hazzard, Dr Peter Roach, Nurse Unit Manager Jodie Wason, Dr Gillian Meyer, Mona Vale Hospital Acting General Manager Jennifer McConnell, and local MPs Rob Stokes and James Griffin

Staff at the opening of the unit



With one of the first vaccination hubs to open in NSW in early March, Northern Sydney Local Health District led the way with vaccination.

Healthcare workers rolled up their sleeves to receive the first jabs of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Hornsby Ku-ring- gai Hospital Vaccination Clinic in early March. The Hornsby Vaccination Clinic was among the first in the state set up to provide vaccinations to people as part of phase 1b of the vaccine rollout. Its opening was soon followed by vaccination clinics at Royal North Shore and Mona Vale hospitals, as well as outreach clinics for vulnerable residents in social housing, mental health and drug and alcohol.

Northern Sydney Local Health District Director of Aboriginal

“I trust the researchers, the medical experts, epidemiologists and the vaccine. Our ancestors provided a future for us; this vaccine will ensure that I can provide a future for my children and grandchildren. I want to watch them grow.” Some suburbs of Northern Sydney Local Health District had the highest rates of vaccination by September 2021, along with the district healthcare workers who led the state when it came to getting vaccinated.

Health Peter Shine was the first to receive the vaccine at the Hornsby Vaccination Clinic. “I was excited to roll up my sleeve and play my part in helping to protect our community, and I would encourage everyone to do the same,” Peter said. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are an at-risk group when it comes to COVID-19, so being vaccinated is the best thing you can do for yourself and your mob.

Peter Shine was the first to receive the vaccine at the Hornsby Vaccination Clinic

Staff being vaccinated at the Hornsby clinic



Despite the constraints and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Sydney Local Health District has continued to drive its diversity, inclusion and belonging agenda throughout 2021. Diversity, inclusion and belonging at NSLHD

Ryde Hospital staff with messages on International Women’s Day

The Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council, chaired by Chief Executive Deb Willcox, continued to meet regularly to discuss the progress on the NSLHD Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy and targeted initiatives. Deb said diversity at NSLHD refers to the visible and non-visible differences of people within our workforce and contributes to diversity of thought and perspectives. “By having diversity of thought and experience, NSLHD is better positioned to understand its consumers, patients and their carers, solve problems and better meet the needs of the community we serve,” she said. “Our goal is to reflect the diverse community we serve and create a place where all staff feel their skills, perspectives and experiences are

The LGBTQI+ network was focused on awareness training, celebration of diversity within the community and building allies. Wear it Purple Day and IDAHOBIT (see right) were two important days on the calendar and were widely celebrated by the network. The Employee Resource Network for Disability was focused on improving capability of recruitment managers in the area of disability inclusion, improved inclusion in the orientation program and the workplace adjustment procedure for the district. The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) group and Women in Leadership were the newest networks to come under the diversity, inclusion and belonging umbrella. The Women in Leadership group has been involved in developing the position statement for the district on zero tolerance and setting up domestic violence competency training for managers. This year International Women’s Day was a highlight for the network. The CALD group was launched on Harmony Day and was looking into professional development opportunities for members, such as English courses available through TAFE focusing on speaking in plain English, accents and phonetics.

Staff celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT)

Staff from the NSLHD Employee Resource Network for Disability

embraced and celebrated.” The employee-led networks

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff Network Day

continued to meet and drive the diversity, inclusion and belonging agenda for the district. There are now five networks up and running. Muru Dali Gili Gili, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander network, was working on recruitment talent pools, career development opportunities and representation across the district on recruitment panels and committees.

HarmonyWeek celebrations at Royal North Shore Hospital


The Kolling Institute Research Strategy was launched at the end of February, setting the strategic framework for the next five years and Kolling unveils new research strategy

broadening opportunities to achieve high-quality translational research.

Kolling Institute Executive Director Professor Carolyn Sue

Three research priority areas were identified during the formation of the strategy: musculoskeletal, neuroscience and pain, and cardiovascular and renal research. Kolling Institute Executive Director Professor Carolyn Sue said the areas of research investigate some of the biggest health challenges of our time. “Collectively, they cost the community billions of dollars a year in health, personal and economic costs,” she said. “There is tremendous expertise across these disciplines within the Kolling, with many researchers world renowned in their fields. Our research teams have a track record of success, a unique breadth of skills and knowledge and globally recognised expertise. “By focusing on these areas, we are moving to strengthen our ability to achieve game-changing research

and ultimately improve the health of our community.” A key component of the new strategy is the provision of research enablers, which will be instrumental in providing collaborative opportunities, modern platforms and infrastructure, and diversified funding. The research enablers will focus on the following areas: › Clinical trials and translation › Data and informatics › Research infrastructure and support services › Recruitment and retention. Carolyn said the strategy identifies opportunities for the Kolling to become a national leader in clinical trials and translational practice, building on existing strengths in this area. “Our researchers work within Royal North Shore Hospital, one of Sydney’s

largest tertiary hospitals, with extensive access to patient groups and state-of-the-art facilities,” she said. “This means our teams can directly incorporate scientific discoveries and evidenced-based improvements into patient care. “We expect there will be a greater involvement in industry trials by building on our expertise and reputation as a leader in clinical trials. “The measures incorporated in the new strategy are aimed at assisting teams to increase the impact of their research. “They will provide a robust strategic framework, delivering new opportunities, greater assistance, access to high quality facilities and new partnerships both within and outside the organisation.”

(Back row left to right): Prof Manuela Ferreira, Prof Robyn Ward and Prof Paul Glare (Front row left to right): A/Prof Sarah Glastras and Dr Belinda Di Bartolo

The Kolling Institute’s Renal Research Team




Stroke patient Chris Plastow

Chris Plastow is a fitness fanatic. For the past 10 years the Bilgola local has been competing in CrossFit, a form of high intensity interval training.

But following one of his workouts earlier this year, Chris started feeling a bit off. “I was driving home and I started losing feeling in my right side – in my arm and then my face,” he said. “I got home and my 13 year-old daughter called an ambulance – she knew the symptoms of a stroke.” While the paramedics did not believe the father of two had suffered a full stroke, he was taken to Northern Beaches Hospital for tests. “It turned out I had dissected a vertebral artery in my neck from doing dead lifts, but after staying overnight in hospital I started feeling okay,” Chris said. “So I got up to make a cup of tea and as I was walking down the hallway I heard a noise behind me and I turned around suddenly and heard a bang like something had shot into my brain. “I started grabbing for my room, but couldn’t move and just lay on the floor – everything started closing in and it seemed like 20 people came running from all directions.

“I could see and hear everyone around me and I could feel everything, but I couldn’t talk. I just wanted to say ‘knock me out’. “I was feeling pure fear.” About seven hours later Chris woke up in Royal North Shore Hospital having undergone brain surgery. Royal North Shore Hospital interventional neurologist Dr Alice Ma said Chris had experienced a brainstem stroke whereby the clot from the injured vertebral artery had broken off and lodged in his basilar artery. “His symptoms are what we called a ‘locked in syndrome’ where he had preserved awareness and consciousness but was completely unable to move, breath or talk,” Alice said “He was urgently retrieved to the Royal North Shore Hospital neurointerventional suite where he had a successful mechanical thrombectomy of the brainstem. “This procedure involves the placement of an access sheath in the femoral artery and guiding

catheters directly to the brain. “We then deploy a specialised stentriever device directly into the basilar artery clot and used an aspiration catheter to remove the clot. This allows blood flow to be restored to the brain.” Alice said the radiology, ICU, anaesthetic teams, and the neurology team led by Associate Professor Martin Krause were crucial to the rapid coordination of Chris’ care and his excellent clinical outcome. Chris said he was told the chances of suffering the localised incident that he had was about two in 100,000. “I was lucky being where I was and having the support I had. I had an amazing surgeon and team to make sure everything was going to be okay,” Chris said. “I just want them to know how grateful my family and I are.”


Nurses celebrating at Mona Vale Hospital


In a fitting celebration, nurses across northern Sydney were acknowledged in special events held across the district as part of International Nurses Day.

International Nurses Day is marked every year on 12 May, and after COVID-19 put a handbrake on last year’s celebrations, they were back on track in May 2021. While there were the usual awards bestowing nurse of year and team of the year across most sites, nurses at Royal North Shore and Mona Vale hospitals competed in their own Amazing Races. The assessment and rehabilitation unit claimed the crown at Mona, while the severe burns unit was saluted at Royal North Shore. Staff at Ryde Hospital were treated to a breakfast for those on night duty, and lunch for those on day and afternoon shifts.

The annual nursing and midwifery awards were held with many individual staff and teams recognised for their fantastic contribution for caring for patients. Nurses at Hornsby celebrated with food trucks for a special lunch hosted by the hospital and Watpac, builder of the stage 2 hospital redevelopment.

Celebrations at Royal North Shore Hospital

Australian College of Nursing Chief Executive Officer Kylie Ward was a guest speaker at the celebrations. Congratulations to all of those who won awards, as well as all of our nurses for their collective achievements over the past 12 months.

Nurses at Hornsby Hospital




Morning tea for midwifery staff at Hornsby Hospital

Cakes, sweet treats and games brought in another year of International Day of the Midwife celebrations.

Every year on 5 May our wonderful midwives working across our hospitals and supporting families in the community are celebrated. Last year midwives across Northern Sydney Local Health District helped bring more than 3700 babies into the world. At Royal North Shore Hospital, staff were treated to an impressive cake made by Divisional Nurse Manager of Women’s and Children’s Family Health Laura Dangerfield.

Chief Executive Deb Willcox and District Director of Nursing and Midwifery Claire Harris joined the celebrations. “Our midwives take on an incredibly special role in so many people’s lives, providing care before, during and after pregnancy and child birth,” Deb said. “The support, education and care they provide stays with parents and families long after they leave our

compassionate care at such a life-changing time for so many people.”

Claire thanked midwives working across the district for their ongoing commitment to providing high quality maternity care. “I am proud of your dedication to working in partnership with women and their families that come in contact with our maternity services,” she said. “This is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed.”

hospitals and services. “Thank you to each and every midwife for providing


Staff involved in the ED Research Unit at Royal North Shore Hospital

RNSH Emergency Department Research Unit The emergency department (ED) at Royal North Shore Hospital is one of the busiest EDs in NSW, seeing more than 90,000 patients per year.

The RNSH ED Research Unit is tasked with performing medical research on the wide spectrum of patients who walk through its doors. It is headed by Associate Professor Mark Gillett who oversees a research team including a project support officer, 20 research volunteers and doctors, nurses, medical students, PhD students from the ED, many other disciplines at RNSH and researchers from other hospitals, interstate and overseas. “Our team of 20 to 25 research volunteers are a varied group of students and retirees who generously give their time to both recruit and

provide follow up for our studies,” Mark said. “Many areas of emergency medicine

has published over 20 scientific journal papers. “The ED is a difficult area of the hospital in which to perform research due to the large patient numbers, their high medical acuity and the need for research funding,” Mark said. “We are always looking for support in order to carry on the research we are currently conducting.” To find out more, or to find out how to donate to ED research, contact Associate Professor Mark Gillett at

still remain under-researched. However, the ED is an area of

medicine that demands high quality medical research in order to provide better treatment for the patients who attend there.” RNSH ED is running more than 20 research projects in areas such as bicycle injuries; musculoskeletal injuries including back, neck, knee pain; pain relief in fractures; use of diagnostic ultrasound in EDs and many other areas. In the past three years, the research group



Reaching out to vaccinate vulnerable patients

Vaccination rates for COVID-19 in northern Sydney are some of the highest in NSW, with the Northern Sydney Outreach Vaccination team visiting Macquarie Hospital to offer some of our most vulnerable their jab.

Vaccination Hub Nurse Unit Manager Hayley Marr was full of praise for those involved. “It has been a pleasure being involved in this outreach project and facilitating COVID-19 vaccinations within our NSLHD community,” she said.

“The outreach team has felt very welcomed and supported whilst attending the Macquarie Hospital campus.” Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Director of Nursing Mark Joyce said it was an important step in ensuring those in our care were protected from the virus. “The response from the consumers and their families to this initiative was overwhelming, with most of them excited to be offered vaccinations,” he said.

The outreach team also visited other mental health services and locations across the district, while patients who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were able to receive their vaccinations at Bungee Bidgel, a dedicated medical and GP service at Hornsby, every Thursday. The outreach team also vaccinated a number of inpatients across the district, such as those in the spinal unit at Royal North Shore Hospital, dialysis patients and vulnerable pregnant women.

Staff from the Northern Sydney Outreach Vaccination team


Honours to researchers, clinicians and volunteers

From researchers and clinicians to volunteers, several staff from Northern Sydney Local Health District were honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honour roll for their contribution to healthcare.

She is a member of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, on several industry boards, and an Ambassador of Business Events Sydney. Her dedication to her clinical and research endeavours have been recognised with many accolades, including a ministerial award for excellence in cardiovascular research and a Vice Chancellor’s award for research supervision from The University of Sydney. Carol welcomed the Queen’s Birthday award, saying it is an honour and a privilege to be recognised with an Order of Australia. “It’s important to note that I have a team who has contributed to this recognition so I am immensely grateful to all those who have supported me in my endeavours,” she said. “A really positive aspect of receiving this award has been reconnecting with people that I haven’t seen in a very long time, including school and university friends, many colleagues who have retired from the health system and in some cases partners of colleagues who have passed away. I didn’t realise so many people read the Honour lists. The award has rekindled friendships and collaborations for which I am grateful.”

Professor Carol Pollock AO Royal North Shore Hospital clinician and Kolling Institute researcher Professor Carol Pollock AO was recognised for her extraordinary contribution to healthcare in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honour roll. Carol was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her distinguished service to medical research, education and science, nephrology, and clinical practice and governance. As a renal medicine specialist and internationally respected academic, Carol has had a remarkable career as a clinician, researcher, lecturer, mentor and advocate. She has published over 390 papers in clinical medicine and basic science, and is an inaugural Fellow

of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Carol has had an extensive range of health leadership roles, and is currently the Chair of Kidney Health Australia, Chair of the NSW Bureau of Health Information and Deputy Chair of the Australian Organ, Tissue and Transplant Authority. She was chair of the NSLHD board from 2010-2016.



Joy Campbell-Stephen OAM Royal North Shore Hospital volunteer Joy Campbell-Stephen was recognised for her long services to the community of North Sydney receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Joy will be familiar to visitors, staff and patients to RNSH as she has been president of the Pink Ladies since 2008. She can be found most days in the Pink Shop and has been volunteering at the hospital since 2006. Joy’s dedication to fundraising and volunteering has earned her the North Sydney Community Award and she was the joint recipient of the Community Service Award of Rotary Club of Roseville Chase (2012). Since Joy has been president of the RNSH Ladies’ Committee, the group has donated just over $1.9 million to the hospital.

Vicki Evans (Roach) AM Royal North Shore Hospital Clinical Nurse Consultant Vicki Evans (Roach) was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to neuroscience nursing, and to professional federations. Vicki has been the Vice President of the World Federation of Neuroscience Nurses since 2005 and Board member since 1998. She is an advisor to the Australasian Neuroscience Nurses Association and has been a guest speaker at many international conferences on nursing and neurosciences. Vicki has been a CNC in neurosciences at RNSH for almost 20 years, as well as been the nurse unit manager in neurosurgery between 1995 and 2002. She has been involved in educating young people on the risks of head injuries and helped to develop the Schools Head Injury Program.


Parkinson’s Clinical Nurse Consultant Suliana Manuofetoa and neurologist Dr Omar Ahmad who is the hospital’s head of neurology

For the first time in Hornsby, residents with Parkinson’s disease or suspected of having the illness can now access a public clinic for treatment in the area. NEUROLOGY PARKINSON’S DISEASE CLINIC a FIRST FOR HORNSBY

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital now has a neurology Parkinson’s disease outpatient clinic, where neurologists and a dedicated Parkinson’s disease nurse see patients. Previously, patients who were awaiting a diagnosis or needed follow-up treatment for Parkinson’s would need to wait to attend the clinic at Royal North Shore Hospital

“Patients who live in the area can now come to Hornsby Hospital and be seen.” Local GPs can refer patients to the clinic, which is led by neurologist Dr Omar Ahmad who is the hospital’s Head of Neurology. “This clinic and associated services will have a major impact in the way in which Parkinson’s disease is managed in the district,” Omar said. “It is a one-stop shop for the care of Parkinson’s disease at all stages of illness and will have a meaningful impact on patient outcomes. “We are excited to be introducing this new model of Parkinson’s care

to Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital.” Patients are also seen to by the nurse, who is one of only a few dedicated Parkinson’s disease clinical nurse consultants, partly funded by Parkinson’s NSW. The clinic can diagnose Parkinson’s disease in new patients, conduct physical examinations, check medications and update treatment plans.

or attend a private clinic. Parkinson’s Clinical Nurse

Consultant Suliana Manuofetoa said: “We have received very positive feedback from patients, some who have been waiting to attend other clinics or who have had to pay for private treatment.

The clinic also provides access to highly advanced Parkinson’s

therapies. It complements the existing Parkinson’s rehabilitation clinic which is available at the hospital.



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