NSLHD News June 4

Get the latest news from across Northern Sydney Local Health District.


RNSH patient inspired by nurses Natalia Mattar has been in the Child and Adolescent ward for the last month following an accident. The nurses looking after the 16-year-old have inspired her to look into a career as a nurse.

Read more on Page 4

The faces behind our covid-19 response Page 6

telehealth ramps up across the district Page 5

Leaders in healthcare, partners in wellbeing


MEssage FROM the chairman Trevor Danos AM

It has been a difficult first part of the year and all our staff have stepped up to the challenge of preparing our hospitals and health services for COVID-19. Our staff should feel proud of their commitment, hard work and achievements to date and of the very high regard in which they are held by the entire community. With restrictions easing, it is important we remain vigilant and ready. The Board is confident that our hospitals and health services are as well prepared as they possibly can be if there is a rise in COVID-19 presentations. COVID-19 has emphasised the importance of making sure every one of our over 11,000 staff arrives at work feeling respected, that they are treated equally and inclusively, have a voice, and are in a safe and supportive environment. I am very pleased and proud that NSLHD has established a Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Council. The Council’s existence and agenda send a clear message that diversity, inclusion and belonging (and our CORE values too) matter and need to be prioritised no matter what else is taking place at NSLHD. The purpose of the Council is to monitor, support and guide progress towards the objectives in the NSLHD Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Strategy and Action Plan, which is due to launch soon. Recently the Council consulted with over 350 of our staff about diversity, inclusion and belonging at NSLHD. The feedback was very constructive and has started the conversation around what we can do better to make sure everyone feels valued and supported at work including in relation to flexible working arrangements. We want our people to be able to bring their authentic selves to work. Our diversity is and should be one of our great strengths. The Council has also discussed introducing employee networks at NSLHD, which are voluntary groups of employees based on shared characteristics or life experiences who come together and arrange events, discuss issues,

raise awareness, support one another and advocate for change. Employee networks improve diversity and inclusion and support employees. Chief Executive Deb Willcox recently sent out a message acknowledging the International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) and requested expressions of interest from staff to join the LGBTQI+ Employee Network. Similar requests will be made in the coming months for other employee networks such as Living with Disability Network or Women in Leadership. I look forward to continuing to be involved with and monitoring the achievements of the Council as we strive to make NSLHD a more supportive, diverse and inclusive environment for everyone. The Board is passionate about celebrating the talents, excellence and innovation of all our staff and putting a spotlight on the hard work and delivery of programs and services which have made a real difference to the patients and families we care for. So it is a timely reminder to get in your application for the Quality and Improvement Awards with applications closing on June 10. Finally, the June long weekend is fast approaching and I hope you enjoy a well-earned break and get to spend some quality time with your loved ones. For those of you who will be working and continuing to provide quality care to our patients I am extremely grateful and extend my thanks and appreciation. I do hope you still manage to enjoy some down-time.

Trevor Danos AM Board Chair Northern Sydney Local Health District


The Northern Sydney Local Health District Research Office team with Medical Executive Director Dr Tamsin Waterhouse

the team behind the scenes making reseaRCH POSSIBLE It’s no secret there is much

privilege to be able to make a difference by expediting applications for COVID-19 research,” Jodi said. “Our governance team have approved four COVID-19 research applications with another 10 applications in progress. “I know I can speak on behalf of the team when I say that we all feel like we play a vital role in enabling research and therefore providing sometimes life-saving treatment options for our patients. “We believe our roles are very important and that we do make a significant difference to many people and for that we are very grateful to be in the positions we are in.” If you have any questions about research or require more information, please contact the Research Office on 9926 4590 or NSLHD- Research@health.nsw.gov.au

“It is then the role of the research governance officer to minimise risk in the delivery of the research with the aim of ensuring optimum patient and staff safety.” However, just because the approvals have been given, the work for the office doesn’t end there, with researchers required to submit regular updates to the office. “There are currently 1359 active projects authorised to be conducted at a NSLHD site which means post- approval project monitoring is a significant responsibility for the Research Office,” Jodi said. That number could grow substantially, with COVID-19 resulting in a boost in applications, including the Smelly Study by Professor Rory Clifton-Bligh which has generated a lot of interest across the country. “Like many in the community, our team hope to see an increased understanding of this illness so it has been a

to learn when it comes to medicine, and one

unsung group is helping to shed some light on these mysteries. The Northern Sydney Local Health District Research Office has been hard at work throughout the pandemic, helping researchers take their vision from concept to a potentially life-changing reality. Research Manager Jodi Humphreys said her team has been helping researchers across the district to deliver all the approvals they need. “Before human research is conducted all applications must undergo a two-step review process; ethics and research governance,” she said. “We provide advice to researchers to assist with the preparation of an application that meets ethical principles and policies and then continues with facilitating the management of the application.



RNSH patient Natalia Mattar with nurses in the Child and Adolescent ward

RNSH patient inspired by nurses following accident In the last month 16-year-old Natalia Mattar has been in theatre 10 times at Royal North Shore Hospital following a buggy accident. The high school student has been recovering at the hospital’s Child and Adolescent ward “The new skin on my hand will grow hair like it had on her legs, so I’ll have to get laser hair removal,” she laughed.

At 16 years of age, Natalia was due to get her P plates in a few months, which her doctor has said is still possible. She was also due to play netball in America and Canada later this year, which has now been cancelled due to COVID-19. “I’m looking at the positives and I feel really lucky considering I said on the way to the hospital that I just didn’t want to lose my hand,” she said. “And I’ve been told I can get back to playing netball in about 12 months.” The year 11 student said she thought she wanted to study teaching after school, but since being in hospital the nurses in the ward have inspired her to look into a career as a nurse. “The nurses are amazing. I haven’t even had all of them looking after me and I’m friends with them all. They are very sweet and genuinely take care of me,” she said. “One of the nurses came in and when she found out about my finger being amputated she started crying with me.” Nurse Unit Manager of the Child and Adolescent ward Claire Blackburn said Natalia has brightened up the ward over the last month. “The way Natalia has dealt with her injury in such a strong and positive way shows what an impressive woman she is,” she said. “She’s been an amazing patient, bringing lots of laughs to the ward and always with a smile on her face.”

from the accident which saw the buggy she was driving roll over trapping her hand underneath. She was flown from Bathurst to Royal North Shore Hospital for urgent surgery. “At first I thought I just had a nosebleed, but my hand actually de-gloved and I had a compound wrist fracture, my index finger needed to be amputated and pins were put into my hand,” Natalia said. “My cousin and dad actually offered to give me their index fingers, but the doctor said they couldn’t do that and I don’t think I would want my dad’s finger on my hand.”

Natalia has been in theatre 10 times

Natalia has had skin grafts from the top of her thigh to cover up the skin lost on her hand, as well a nerve next to her Achilles moved to her hand to help with movement.



NSLHD RAMPS UP TELEHEALTH More than 2000 clinicians across Northern Sydney Local Health District are turning to telehealth at a rate never seen before to deliver healthcare during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. In April this year there was more than 28,100* occasions of telehealth service across the district, almost triple the 9445 occasions in February. Within the last few months clinicians across the district are increasingly using telehealth to deliver clinical care and education to patients via telecommunication technologies such as live video and phone conferencing. Dr Venessa Tsang Staff Specialist in Endocrinology at Royal North Shore Hospital said the Diabetes and Endocrinology unit has rapidly increased its use of telehealth to review patients, hold group patient education sessions, and educate other clinicians. “As well as our one-on-one telehealth appointments, we are doing more group sessions for patients, such as for Type 2 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes, and more education sessions for nursing staff including glucose management up-skilling,” Dr Tsang said. “While we have the technology to work around seeing most patients in-person, we are still at the hospital for urgent medical conditions and will still see patients where required, such as for initiation of insulin pumps and for injectable medications. Patients should not avoid hospital presentations for urgent matters. “The feedback from our patients has been really positive with many enjoying not having to come into the hospital for their appointments whilst still receiving high- quality care.” Diabetes and Endocrinology is one of a number of departments actively using

Dr Venessa Tsang

telehealth within the district. At Royal North Shore Hospital alone in March more than 5000 consultations were conducted via videoconference and telephone rather than in-person, an increase of about 180 per cent from February. NSLHD Chief Executive Deb Willcox said the district has had to increase its telehealth capacity significantly in response to COVID-19 and what would normally take months to set up and get working properly has been achieved in a matter of weeks. “The number of clinicians signing up to telehealth services is only increasing and it has become part of the way we deliver care and services so they continue to deliver healthcare safely,” Ms Willcox said. “It’s an amazing effort by all our staff who have had to look at other ways they can deliver services amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. “While telehealth is providing many with care from the comfort of their own home, our hospitals are still open and safe for those who are sick and require critical care.” *Data is preliminary and figures are subject to change as services complete data corrections.

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Dr Bernie Hudson, Jo Tallon and Dr Mel Figtree

How we are Conquering Covid-19 As we continue our response to COVID-19, we are chatting to those who are at the forefront, with Dr Mel Figtree and Dr Bernie Hudson from Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and Jo Tallon, Director for Infection Prevention and Control featuring in this edition. It is not every day that the actions you take affect the lives “My kids suddenly thought I had the power to shut down

Leadership came from everywhere, with all three agreeing everyone stood up during a time of crisis.

of hundreds of thousands of people, but for Jo, Bernie and Mel, that’s the situation they were confronted when the virus broke. “I haven’t been this popular since Ebola,” Jo said. The Infection Prevention and Control expert has been one of the go-to people during the pandemic, not just for the district – but also for the state. Jo’s boots were among the first on the ground at Ryde Hospital, Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch to help staff respond to the virus. “For us in infection prevention, one of the biggest and most important things was to give our staff a level of confidence and bring some calmness to what was a pretty crazy environment,” she said. “A lot of what we were expecting of staff is core business to them; they do it every single day. They know how to don and doff PPE, they know about hand hygiene – we were there to give them that reassurance and calmness, ensuring they know they are safe.” Meanwhile, Dr Figtree’s phone was also lighting up as she received upwards of 100 calls a day, but the calls she were making were equally as important.

the schools because I made the phone call and three hours later the closure would be on the news,” she said. It was this rapid decision making in an unknown environment that laid the foundations for the district’s success and provided a blueprint to others, including the decision not to have some COVID positive patients in a brick and mortar hospital. “We didn’t see the need for patients to come into hospital if they didn’t need medical care where as others had policies of admitting everyone,” Mel said “We put them into a system where we checked on them regularly and figured out when they could come out in conjunction with the Public Health Unit.” Dr Hudson said the work done in our district at Ryde Hospital set the standard. coordinated and coping with a lot of problems in a very efficient and effective manner,” Bernie said. “Ryde Hospital was controlled incredibly well and a lot of credit needs to go to the people out there as well as Chief Executive Deb Willcox for her leadership and Jo and Mel, for going out there every day.” “The best thing about our response was it was well

“Leadership has come from everywhere; the Ministry of Health, the Clinical Excellence Commission, from Deb and the Heads of Department – everyone has worked together really well in the space,” Jo said. But the message was clear – now is the time for everyone to show leadership and do what’s right to prevent a second wave. “We need to be really vigilant to prevent a second wave – we cannot be complacent about it,” Mel said. “We are prepared as far as intensive care goes, we are prepared as far as laboratory testing goes and we are prepared as far as personal protective equipment goes but we must not forget that primarily it is people’s behaviour that drives these outbreaks,” Bernie said “We still need to do all the personal things that have worked well for us - pay attention to updates from our health and government experts, comply with government rules on travel and social distancing, remember to wash our hands, don’t come to work if you are sick and if you are feeling unwell, or you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested.”


NORTH Foundation launches Tax Appeal NORTH Foundation has launched its Tax Appeal with a focus on ‘grateful patient giving’.

North Foundation has seen an outpouring of support from the community over the last few months with people wanting to show their gratitude to hospitals and staff for the care they received. “It’s been a difficult time the past couple of months in all aspects of our lives. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has really shone a light on our healthcare system and workers. We wanted to give our community a chance to say thanks,” Mr Lorquet said. Members of the community will be able to include a thank you note to the hospital or service they are donating to with their donation or on its own. To send a note, visit: https://bit.ly/36XcJMc To make a donation, visit: www.northdoundation. org.au/tax2020

Members of the community are being encouraged to donate and/or show their gratitude to hospital services they or someone they love has had an experience with. NORTH Foundation CEO Gilbert Lorquet said the current health crisis has highlighted the incredible work that our healthcare workers do daily both within the district and across the country. “In addition to preparing for a potential increase in patient numbers during the pandemic, the everyday healthcare needs of our community continue – babies continue to be born, emergencies continue to need treatment, and trauma patients continue to need our care,” he said. Palliative care week 2020 Northern Sydney Local Health District’s Palliative Care Team celebrated Palliative Care Week a little differently in 2020. Physical distancing has stopped many larger events, but staff in the team were keen to mark the event with a small morning tea. National Palliative Care Week presents an opportunity to highlight the work of not only hundreds of palliative care specialists and palliative care nurses, but also the support provided by general practitioners, volunteers, allied health professionals, community workers and everyone who works within the palliative care sphere. It’s only apt this year’s theme was “Palliative care… it’s more than you think.” While Palliative Care Australia chose this year’s theme before the COVID-19 outbreak, at this time, it is more important than ever to

discuss quality palliative care and end of life preferences, given the current challenging and uncertain circumstances. As Australians face the challenges brought forth by the pandemic, the palliative care workforce continues to deliver excellent clinical care and support these people with complex problems and life limiting illnesses.



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