NSLHD Year in Review 2020

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







message FROM the Chief executive

bushfires or any other number of challenges that we face each and every day in our hospitals, community health centres or the community; teamwork. We are extremely privileged to have such committed clinicians who really are leading the way in their discipline. Their advice and support made such an incredible difference and informed the critical decisions that had to be made. Our Clinical Advisory Group, a team of some of our most dedicated and brilliant clinicians from across disciplines worked hand in hand with members of the executive. They are a large part of why our district has been as prepared and managed so well during the pandemic. I would like to thank them all for their time, expertise and support. Our nurses were quite remarkable at taking charge of any space and turning it into a testing clinic, with patient feedback incredibly positive. Our public health unit with its contact tracing efforts and monitoring positive patients – again, teamwork was central to that. There were those who donned a pink vest and helped to form the COVID Care team. This initiative from People and Culture was integral in helping to maintain the wellbeing of all of our staff, including those on the frontline, during a time of great stress and uncertainty. But then there is the rest of the teamwho played a huge role in helping us get to the stage we are now in and that’s our community. I would like to thank you all for doing what was asked of you; we asked you to get tested and you did, we asked you to wear a mask and you did, we asked you to stay 1.5 metres apart and you did that too – we even asked you to respect limits when visiting loved ones in hospital and you did that too. You even went so far as to send our staff food, and children made our staff thank you cards and drawings. On behalf of all of us here at Northern Sydney Local Health District, thank you to all of you who stepped up and played your part in overcoming the challenge that has been 2020. Here’s to 2021 and another year of challenges and triumphs. Until then, stay well and have a wonderful holiday season.

This year, 2020, was a year which held so much promise. It was the first year of a new decade and the year of the Nurse and the Midwife. However in the blink of an eye, 2020 quickly became the year of devastating bushfires and of course COVID-19. It has certainly been a year like no other, especially in healthcare, not just within our district or state or even country, but across the entire world. This year has pushed many of us to our limits professionally and personally too, and while this year might have felt like challenge after challenge, there have been a number of celebrations and triumphs too. While our events like the Innovation Program and Quality and Improvement Awards might have looked a little different, it focused on the same calibre of excellent work being produced. Our district was acknowledged for this work when it won two NSWHealth Awards in the Patient Safety First and Excellence in the Provision of Mental Health Services category, as well as being a finalist in the Transforming Patient Experience category. Speaking of tremendous achievements, back in January, our district united to help our friends and colleagues in Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW local health districts as they battled some of the worst bushfires this state has ever seen. We had staff from across a broad range of disciplines; mental health, nursing, allied health – selflessly put themselves forward and I had personal feedback from both Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW LHDs chief executives about the incredible role they played and how they immersed themselves in the community when they were in dire need. I think those first months set the tone for what was to come. After the fires settled, the COVID-19 virus started to impact us and cause huge disruption to life as we know it. At the very outset of this pandemic, our clinicians were at the forefront of decision-making and advice to care for community. They demonstrated the incredible values of healthcare workers - dedication, care, and professionalism. I could not have been prouder of the resilience they showed and continue to show in our response. One of the first communities in our country to be affected was Ryde. The situation that faced us at Ryde Hospital was a difficult one, and I commend our staff for the incredible work they did to keep others safe and most of all the unwavering care and committment. That’s where the key lies to overcoming challenges – whether it’s COVID or

Deb Willcox, Chief Executive Northern Sydney Local Health District


message FROM the board chair

In what has been a challenging year for everyone, but especially our health system, there have been some remarkable feats of achievements within our District. We should all feel incredibly proud of our doctors, nurses, allied health workers, engineers and support staff who showed what can be achieved when working together under difficult circumstances. If this year has proven anything, it is that our district has such a resilient workforce that can endure any challenge thrown at it. From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the leadership shown by the Chief Executive, Deb Willcox, the district and hospital executive teams and senior clinicians across the district has been superior. The board would like to extend its gratitude to all staff in how they came together and were able to prepare our hospitals and services for an anticipated surge in COVID patients. The district showed leadership in working with community and partner organisations, including the Northern Sydney Primary Health Network, to support aged care facilities in our district in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. We have established a strike force response to provide a 24/7 immediate response to the 112 aged care facilities in or local health district; and we are working with GPs and aged care providers to ensure they are kept informed of the latest advice in relation to COVID-19. Importantly, throughout this pandemic, we have kept business as usual and one of our achievements has been the release of the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy. The strategy contains the voice of our staff and offers a wonderful opportunity for us to show our community, and employees, that we are prioritising diversity and inclusion in our organisation. The benefits of diversity and inclusion are multiple for our organisation. Diversity brings new perspectives and with new perspectives come the opportunity for better problem solving and increased productivity. We made several partnerships while developing the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Strategy for guidance and support, including the Male Champions of Change. I am proud to be the district’s Male Champions of Change and help to drive our mission to achieve gender equality, advance more and diverse women into leadership and build safe, respectful and inclusive environments for all.

Another investment in our staff which continues to grow is the Leadership and Talent Program, identifying and investing in our leaders. Our staff are our most valuable asset and by investing in their talent and supporting future leaders, as an organisation we are laying the foundations for the district’s future. This year we also began a project the board is very excited about, planetary health. This recognises the inextricable link between the health of our planet and the health of our population, with a focus on the importance of climate change and environmental sustainability. The district continues to strengthen its research capabilities with the release of the Kolling Institute’s Research Strategy . This outlines the areas of excellence the Kolling wants to prioritise, positioning the institute as a centre of translational research excellence improving patient care. The strategy will improve research outcomes by harnessing the strengths and expertise of the district and The University of Sydney. The board is incredibly pleased the district has unveiled plans for the Northern Sydney Health, Education and Research Precinct Plan for Royal North Shore Hospital. By forming a precinct it will enable the hospital and the district to be more competitive for research and grant funding, attract leading researchers and create strong academic linkages with universities and create employment opportunities that will benefit our Northern Sydney communities and patients. On behalf of the board, we look forward to seeing the progress of some of these great initiatives in 2021. We would like to thank all our staff, volunteers, researchers, and everyone associated with Northern Sydney Local Health District. You should be so proud of what you have achieved this year during such challenging times.

Trevor Danos AM, Chair Northern Sydney Local Health District Board


Ryde Hospital staff with a simple message for the community

NSLHD responds to COVID-19

From building wards in under a week to training new nurses in intensive care, Northern Sydney Local Health District used all available resources to prepare for COVID-19 at the outset of the pandemic.

One of the very first actions it took was to set up an executive level incident management team which met daily to ensure the hospitals and services were appropriately resourced. The dedicated district team comprised of clinical advisors from respiratory, intensive care, emergency, infectious diseases and surgery, as well as district directors. Chief Executive Deb Willcox said the team would continue to come together throughout the pandemic to undertake planning for additional beds, equipment and resourcing as well as provide advice on personal protective equipment (PPE) and best clinical practice. “Together we are working on our district-wide response and preparedness, with special focus on emergency care, respiratory medicine, infectious diseases, and

possible place to care for patients with COVID-19.” More negative pressure single rooms have been created, meaning more infectious patients will be able to isolate to protect staff and patients. Many nurses underwent training to be upskilled in intensive care, under the supervision of ICU nurses and doctors. At Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, the emergency department was split into hot and cold zones to reduce the potential spread of COVID, with hot for patients suspected of COVID-19 while other patients could continue to be treated. More clinicians and health services turned to telehealth with many patients able to receive treatment or follow up consultations over the phone or video calls.

critical care. We are so extremely fortunate to have such high calibre clinical staff, who are true leaders in their disciplines and always have our patients and staff at the centre of their advice,” she said. At the onset of the pandemic, staff worked tirelessly in preparing for an anticipated surge of patients. Intensive care units (ICUs) doubled their capacity and teams of experts established a high dependency unit (HDU) at Royal North Shore Hospital in under a week – something that would normally take years to do. “The speed in which our staff have been able to achieve some of this is remarkable,” Deb said. “Everyone is working together, no matter what speciality they come from, to ensure we are in the best


COVID-19 teams on the ground

As part of NSLHD’s response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, a dedicated COVID-19 care team and front door team, tasked with taking temperatures and conducting health checks, have been deployed to work across the district to support staff.

and the front line against COVID-19, but they aren’t daunted by the responsibility in front of them. As well as taking temperatures and conducting health checks, the team relays updated health guidelines to those entering our hospitals. The team of 40 staff at Royal North Shore Hospital alone has been essential in keeping staff, patients and visitors safe. But behind the masks are smiles from across hospitals and professions ranging from registered nurses, enrolled nurses, assistants in nursing and administration officers. Since early March, staff like Registered Nurse Samantha Johnson have been present at major entry points of Royal North Shore from 5am to 11pm, seven days a week.

Donning pink vests, the COVID-19 care team offers workforce support and advice to all staff and managers, as well as check in on staff members’ wellbeing. The team also helps source relevant information for staff, feedback any concerns to the district executive and follows up on any questions if they can’t immediately answer. Director People and Culture Paula Williscroft said: “We have a wonderful 10,000-strong team of experienced, caring and professional health workers. “I am very proud of our staff who remain absolutely focused on the delivery of health care to our patients and community during the COVID-19 situation.” The front door team are the first people visitors see when they walk into hospitals across the district

“Being at the hospital you can always be pulled into different roles,” she said. “COVID-19 expanded quite quickly so it was just a matter of jumping in and helping out. It’s protecting the hospitals, the community and the patients.” For Assistant in Nursing Danielle Sanz, she saw it as a chance not just to keep everyone safe, “With everyone, we have a smile on our face and we greet them happily and positively which hopefully has a domino effect on their day,” she said. Danielle said the team took pride in offering guidance in a period of constant change. but also impart some much needed positivity given the unfolding situation.

COVID care team

RN Samantha Johnson, Benji Rengasamy and Danielle Sanz


District does the double at NSW Health Awards Northern Sydney Local Health District had twice the cause for celebration after claiming two NSW Health Awards.

“It has been a goal of the unit for a number of years to manage behavioural disturbance in a least restrictive and trauma informed manner and reduce the use of seclusion and restraint. “The feedback from people who have been admitted to the unit, when they recover, and their families has been really positive and our overall rates of acute behavioural disturbance, including injury rates to people in the unit and staff, have reduced as well.” Royal North Shore Hospital Intensive Care Staff Specialist Dr Jonathan Gatward said he was thrilled the team got to take home the award, along with its Australian Council on Healthcare Standards and Quality and Improvement awards. “It means a great deal to us to win this award,” he said. “We are so proud of this project for three reasons. Firstly, the reduction in arterial blood gases has been sustained over three years - we have not seen a slide back to our old ways of over-ordering.

The mental health intensive care unit (MHICU) at Hornsby Ku-ring- gai Hospital claimed the Excellence in the Provision of Mental Health Services Award with its project ‘Reducing Time in Seclusion in the Mental Health Intensive Care Unit’. Royal North Shore Hospital’s intensive care unit won the Patient Safety First award with the project ‘Reducing Inappropriate Arterial Blood Gas Testing in a 58-bed Quarternary ICU’. MHICU Nurse Unit Manager James Wall said the fact the competition was of such a high calibre made it all the sweeter to win. “The other nominees had terrific projects; we were just happy to be nominated in the end but it was a nice surprise to win,” he said. He paid tribute to his staff and the support the team received as part of their project, which has greatly benefitted consumers and staff alike. “It’s really rewarding for the team to see their hard work pay off,” James said.

“Second, the project was a huge team effort and shows what can be achieved by a group of clinicians who are motivated to make things better. “Thirdly, this project is about empowerment - trusting nurses and junior doctors to use their clinical judgement and common sense to make better choices around test ordering.” Both Jonathan and James said it all starts with an idea and encouraged others to turn their thoughts into action. “If you’re driven to make a change, you should go for it, no matter how small the project,” James said. Northern Sydney was lucky enough to have three finalists in the NSW Health Awards, but unfortunately Mona Vale Hospital’s Patient Led Handover Project fell just short. Chief Executive Deb Willcox said she was proud of the teams involved and looked forward to seeing the projects continue to improve the lives of patients and consumers into the future.

The winning team from RNSH

Hornsby Hospital’s award winner


Wellbeing forum a huge success Junior medical officers (JMOs) and senior executive staff from across the district came together in January for the inaugural JMOWellbeing Forum. The evening, which was hosted and facilitated by Julie McCrossin AM, was attended by more than 50 JMOs as a range of topics were explored. Staff were encouraged to share their thoughts on what more can be done at the local level to support junior medical staff, as well as addressing aspects of wellness.


Left to right: Emily Gregg, Dr Josh Pillemer and Social Worker Emily Mahony

It has been one of the hardest aspects of being in hospital during COVID-19; but thanks to an initiative at Royal North Shore Hospital, patients and loved ones will no longer have to go without seeing each other.

when restrictions are relaxed again, I can see this providing a lasting benefit for all.” He said the flow-on effects from the project would greatly benefit other areas of healthcare and enable families to play a key role in their loved one’s recovery. “Having this technology available gives us the flexibility to expand the involvement of the patient in their own care through access to telemedicine services, inclusion in multidisciplinary family conferences which can include family from around the world, and provision of face-to-face language translation services,” he said. “Well beyond COVID-19,

patients in ICU without adding the extra challenge of removing the vital support that comes from visits from their loved ones” he said. “In the past, patients had been haphazardly using their own devices for video calls – but this was not possible for many, given it required patients to have their own equipment and the faculties to use it.” Josh said the isolation of being in ICU was particularly noticeable for those who were transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital far away from their homes. “As a NSW trauma centre, as well as a state-wide burns and spinal cord injury service, we receive patients from all across NSW,” he said. “Being able to facilitate communication with loved ones who are hours away is a tremendous service that helps patients, their families and the health service. Even

The hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) has installed webcams on existing bedside computers and trained nursing and social work staff in the use of videoconferencing software to ensure patients, including those with COVID-19, remain connected to the outside world. Staff will operate the computer with patients to ensure they are able to call and see their loved ones without being restricted by their injuries or clinical requirements. ICU Staff Specialist Dr Josh Pillemer said the catalyst for the project was some of the restrictions on patient visitation. The project is intended to reduce the isolating effect of these restrictions, especially given the prospect of further restrictions in the event that COVID-19 becomes a larger problem. “It is hard enough for our unwell

this project has great potential to improve the way we care for our patients.”


It was a Saturday afternoon and Beda Andrews was enjoying her day off from Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital’s emergency department when the Nurse Unit Manager received a phone call to say there was an incident at work. Hornsby team reflects on overcoming COVID-19 emergency

She immediately returned to work, where she joined Acting Director of ED, Dr Andrew (Andy) Brown, and together the pair swung into action to face one of the department’s toughest challenges. The incident was a staff member diagnosed with COVID-19 and the pair’s immediate priority was the welfare of their colleagues. They needed to quickly identify staff who had been in contact with the affected team member and have them isolate at home. Immediately the ED lost about 18 staff working that day as they quarantined at home. Andy and Beda then needed to find staff to cover their shifts. What followed over the course of the next 24-48 hours was hundreds of phone calls to affected staff, welfare checks and working with their ED colleagues to ensure the department continued to run smoothly and be able to care for patients. They also needed to identify patients who had been in contact with the COVID-19 positive staff member and assist the NSLHD Public Health Unit to start contact tracing. “It was a race against time because our priority was the welfare of our staff. We wanted to tell them first-hand about what had happened before it was made public,” Beda said. “I remember calling staff to tell them (they needed to isolate) and there was a lot of shock.” Setting up an incident control centre away from the main ED floor, the pair worked the phones while they were supported on the floor

Left to right: ED staff Beda Andrews, Carolyn Opie and Dr Andrew Brown

by Clinical Nurse Manager Tristan Miller and Dr Stephen Kearney who managed the department. Dr Felicia Kwok began to oversee the rostering logistics, ED Clerical Supervisor Justine McMahon supported the team, while COVID-19 After Hours Nurse Manager Carolyn Opie and After Hours hospital executive Adrienne Stern assisted the ED in the crucial first few hours. “My focus had always been on responding to a patient who had COVID-19 and the influx of patients so it was a lot of a shock when it was a colleague,’’ Beda said. “But it was so good to see all of our disaster training come into effect and the whole team just pulled together.” What was unsurprising to Andy and Beda was the overwhelming support from their fellow ED colleagues, other hospital and district staff throwing their hands up to help. Doctors and nurses volunteered to perform double shifts, nurses moved to 12 hour shifts, colleagues from other departments came to work in ED and colleagues from other hospitals in the district, including

Mona Vale, Royal North Shore and the Northern Beaches, volunteered to help man the department to cover staffing shortfalls. “We are like one big family and everyone just pulled together,” Andy said. “Everyone was doing it tough in different ways. We had those who were working really hard and worried about the quarantined staff and those at home self-isolating concerned about their colleagues who were working. “Initially we needed to work out what was needed for the first 48 hours and then the next two weeks. Because of the unpredictability of COVID, we didn’t know howmany staff would have to isolate. We lost an entirety of three shifts of staff. A third of the medical wworkforce and about 40 per cent of the nursing staff.” Immediate quarantining, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and following strict hand hygiene and social distancing protocols were effective in managing the spread of COVID-19 in ED.


Mona Vale nursing award winners

It is one of the most special days on the calendar in healthcare, but this year’s International Nurses Day took on even more meaning as 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Paying tribute to our Nurses

of dedication, leadership, and commitment,” she said. “As our proud history has shown, and is manifested daily in our work, nurses continue to show compassion, innovation, creativity, resilience and integrity. “These are extraordinary times, but as always NSLHD nurses, standing firmly on the shoulders of our historical giants, hold firm to the values of our profession and confidently meet the challenges set before us. “NSLHD nurses proudly champion

While the obvious challenges of COVID-19 made this year a little different, nurses across Northern Sydney Local Health District came within 1.5 metres of each other to celebrate. Acting District Director of Nursing and Midwifery Jenny Neilsen paid tribute to the nurses who make such a positive difference to lives on a daily basis. “During the COVID-19 pandemic we have again seen the best of nursing in the daily displays

best practice and quality safe care, and rightly take their place in nursing history.” NSLHD Chief Executive and former ICU nurse Deb Willcox echoed Jenny’s sentiments. challenging, but I want to say a huge thank you to all of you for your hard work and dedication to our patients,” Deb said. “There’s no secret this year has been

Hornsby Nurse of the Year Ashleigh Threw

RNSH New Graduate of the Year Isobel Fraser

Celebrations at Ryde Hospital


Celebrating our magnificent midwives

Cake, keep cups and confectionery were just some of the ways our wonderful midwives across the district celebrated International Day of the Midwife on May 5. The day recognises the incredible contribution that midwives make to the lives of millions of women and their families around the world. At Royal North Shore, staff were treated to a stunning cake which was baked and decorated by Laura Dangerfield, Divisional Nurse Manager of Women’s and Children’s Family Health. Chief Executive Deb Willcox and Acting Director of Nursing and Midwifery for the district Jenny Neilsen were also on hand, distributing keep cups to staff as a small token of thanks for their hard work.

Some of the midwifery and women’s health team at RNSH with CE Deb Willcox

“With more than 4200 babies delivered in our district hospitals each year our midwives have impacted the lives of literally thousands of women and their families every woman will remember that moment at one of the most important and special times in their life.” Jenny said despite current events, she hoped staff still took the time to acknowledge each other’s hard work.

“Even though our celebrations will be different this year, I hope you are able to take some time to reflect on the value you as midwives have in women’s lives, especially during these uncertain and difficult times,” she said. “Your advocacy and adaptability in ensuring that women have continuing access to care is to be commended.”

“I would like to thank each and every midwife working in our district clinics, community and hospitals,” Deb said.

CE Deb Willcox with midwife

Midwives at RNSH


Some of Ryde’s patient story takers

IMPROVING RYDE PATIENTS’ EXPERIENCE ONE STORY AT A TIME Collecting patient and carer stories from the bedside is Ryde Hospital’s latest initiative to improve its patients’ experience.

“The most powerful thing about the initiative is finding out what we can improve on from the patient’s perspective – and it won’t necessarily be the things that we thought we needed to improve on.” In the longer term, Sophie hopes the story taking will become part of Ryde’s culture. “Eventually we hope all our consumers’ stories will be heard and their feedback incorporated into the way they are cared for and for future patients,” she said. Once enough stories are recorded, the teamwill collaborate with clinical governance and the quality team to identify trends and theme the stories.

Earlier this year the nursing team at Ryde, led by Deputy Director of Nursing Sophie Lange, set themselves a challenge: how could they use their consumers to educate staff and improve their practice. “It’s a really difficult thing to do,” Sophie said. “We thought if we could give our consumers an opportunity to tell us their experience while they’re in our care, we could capture that and use it to improve our performance – and that’s when we came up with CAPE.”

The new ‘capturing the patient experience’ initiative, also known as CAPE, involves staff undergoing story taking training so they can sit down with patients and collect direct feedback on their care. So far 14 nursing staff and one allied health worker have been trained to collect stories, and Sophie said after the first month the group had collected 26 stories between them. “CAPE will initially focus on gathering the stories of various cultural groups and falls patients to gather feedback – positive or constructive – and change practices as required,” she said.


rnsh COVID-19 Research

For many people with COVID-19, the first sign they had the virus was a loss in their sense of smell. Now a team from the Kolling Institute and Royal North Shore Hospital is investigating the correlation between the virus and early symptoms.

Associate Professor Clifton-Bligh, Head of Endocrinology at RNSH

The study involves researchers from Australia and India, and will investigate whether existing blood pressure medications can reduce the risk of severe disease as well as the duration of severe symptoms. Professor Carol Pollock, who will lead the trial at RNSH, said the CLARITY study is investigating whether a class of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers can improve outcomes for patients. “We’ll also be looking at whether these medications can protect patients against lung injury from COVID-19, a common outcome for those with severe symptoms,” she said. “These existing blood pressure medications have already shown to reduce inflammation and we’re hopeful they’ll reduce the risk of severe COVID disease and guide future treatment advice.” Blood pressure medications have been used widely in the treatment of various chronic diseases for more than 30 years and are affordable and easy to access. The trial has received $1.4 million from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Associate Professor Meg Jardine and Professor Carol Pollock

The study, led by Associate Professor Rory Clifton-Bligh, is just one of many being conducted as part of the Northern Sydney Local Health District COVID-19 research group. All major specialist disciplines are represented in the group, taking advantage of the breadth of knowledge across the health campus. Rory said a loss of smell had emerged as a common symptom of COVID-19 infection, but the current data was relying on subjective, self-reported information. “This study will objectively assess loss of smell with people who have tested positive to COVID-19,” he said. “It’s really pleasing to be involved in such an important study, and we hope it will assist early diagnosis of the virus and future treatment options. The rapid evolution of the pandemic has led to new research

collaborations and partnerships, and innovative approaches to clinical trials for COVID patients and healthcare workers.” Head of Neurogenetics and Executive Director of the Kolling Institute Professor Carolyn Sue will form part of the research team. “We have used this smell test before to assess patients with other medical conditions and found it easy to do and interpret,” she said. “This new application of the smell test is an exciting way to combine our past expertise with new research collaborations to help solve COVID-19 related health problems for our patients and the general community.” Meanwhile another study is looking into whether a group of blood pressure medications may hold the key to better outcomes for those with COVID-19.


Eighteen years ago Maya Morrison was being cared for at Royal North Shore Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and this year she celebrated her milestone 18th birthday. Maya was born at 25 weeks, weighing just 732 grams. Maya’s mum Jodi Morrison got in contact via the Royal North Shore Hospital Facebook page to send her thanks to staff at the NICU. “Just wanted to say a massive thank you to the doctors and nurses at RNSH NICU,” she said. “Feeling so grateful and didn’t know how to show our appreciation.” RNSH NICU baby celebrates 18th birthday


An Australia wide trial is set to get underway with hopes it may lead to life-long improvements for those who experience a spinal cord injury. Kolling teams receive funding for spinal injury research

Led by Professor Lisa Harvey from the Kolling Institute’s John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research, the study represents a collaboration between the University of Sydney and every spinal injury unit in Australia. The NSW Government is investing $2.5 million in the project, with The University of Sydney contributing $500,000. Lisa said the innovative approach is one of the most promising interventions for those with spinal cord injuries. “Researchers will assess the effectiveness of early and intensive

physiotherapy on neurological recovery and function in people with a recent injury,” she said. “The type of physiotherapy we are looking at will be directed below the level of the injury to take advantage of the plasticity of the spinal cord, and its ability to self-repair soon after injury. “The treatment will aim to help partially paralysed muscles work again through a range of specific exercises, including walking on a treadmill with overhead suspension and electrical stimulation. “It’s hoped the trial will provide

evidence of the effectiveness of this intervention and its potential to make an immediate and life-long difference to people with a spinal cord injury. “Once we have that evidence, this approach could be incorporated into clinical practice and rolled out on a large-scale across Australia. “We’re very hopeful the treatment will lead to better outcomes for those with a spinal cord injury, improving their ability to live independently, and participate in work and leisure.”

Patient Bob Flegg with Professor Lisa Harvey


The second stage of the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital’s $265 million redevelopment is taking shape with new departments opening throughout the year. Hornsby’s Stage 2 Hospital Redevelopment takes shape

The first department to open was medical imaging, boasting the latest scanning and imaging technology – including an MRI for the first time in the hospital’s history. Hornsby MP, Matt Kean, and Ku-ring-gai MP, Alister Henskens, officially opened the department which is now double the size of the former unit. Staff are excited to care for patients in the new department which also has a SPEC-CT scanner, new CTs, ultrasounds and x-rays.

The local community will also benefit from a new orthopantogram (OPG) which allows for dental xrays and a fluoroscopy unit which is used widely for stroke patients to review speech and swallowing. Paediatrics was the second ward to open with families and staff delighted with the larger clinical spaces and dedicated parents’ lounge room and children’s play area. The outpatients department is now open and pharmacy and intensive care unit are due to open later this year.


Peer workers support mental health consumers’ recovery

Peer workers with CE Deb Willcox

Peer workers are playing a vital role in supporting patients and carers across the district’s Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Services (MHDA) by sharing their experiences and personal journeys.

“They bring their lived experience and professional expertise to the multi-disciplinary teams to inform consumers’ care planning and service delivery.” Angela Hunter, Family and Carer Program Manager said “We also have nine carer peer workers who provide invaluable input into service delivery by using their lived experience of caring and peer work skills to promote positive change across all mental health and drug and alcohol services and systems.”

The district has 29 peer workers who come from all walks of life offering their valuable lived experiences to consumers and carers to support recovery. Peer workers work across inpatient, community and specialist services and are part of the MHDA workforce providing peer support to consumers and carers. They also form part of the multi-disciplinary teams caring for consumers and patients.

Recently Chief Executive Deb Willcox met with the peer workers and thank them for the personal perspective and support they provide. “We have 20 consumer peer workers who work in services to support the recovery journey of consumers. They walk alongside people offering peer support and wisdom from their own recovery and lived experience,” Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Engagement Manager Francesca Coniglio said.


he’s never looked back. “I find it really fascinating working at St Mary’s Vunapope Hospital and the team seem to appreciate my help,” he said. “I started going on ward rounds with the doctors and got to know the people. They didn’t have access to information, so I helped set them up with an online journal.” In March, Chris will embark on his third six-month visit to the hospital. In a voluntary capacity, he spends three days a week at the hospital and other times as needed, and he’s even learning pidgin – the local language. Staff specialist gives back in Papua New Guinea

Chris in the laboratory with the head scientist at St Mary’s Hospital

Royal North Shore Hospital Staff Specialist in Haematology Chris Arthur had planned to use his long service leave to travel around Europe. But a couple of years ago, when in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea on a religious mission with his church, Chris stuck his head into a local hospital and

impressive. He remembers seeing several patients come in with pericardial tuberculosis, a condition where fluid surrounds the heart. “The doctors are amazing – they would just go and stick a needle in and drain out all the fluids and the patient would get better,” he said. On his upcoming visit, Chris plans to work with the local team to set up a cancer service and he also hopes to continue to develop links with health services in Australia to provide extra support. “The hospital is such a contrast to what we have here and I want to help as much as I can,” he said. “I’ve formed a partnership with a pathology service in Brisbane to help us with diagnoses, I’m talking to Pathology NSW to try and get some better equipment for the team over there. But I’m also hoping we can set up digital imaging, so we can send specimens to pathologists here to help diagnose.”

Chris has seen a variety of patients at the hospital, including those with haematological problems, machete wounds from domestic violence cases, diabetes, malaria, leukaemia and lymphoma. He said most of these aren’t managed properly because the staff doesn’t have the resources. “The trouble is it takes so long to get the results from a biopsy that patients just get sicker compared to patients in Australia with lymphoma, for example, where it’s highly treatable,” he said. “A lot of the patients just accept

the suffering – some think it’s a curse that has been put on them.” But with the limited resources they do have, Chris said the doctors are

Chris on a ward round at the hospital

Morning handover with the doctors


Eating disorders service team Caroline Hill, Gabriella Heruc and Simone Jacques

nslhd’s new eating disorders service

The newly established eating disorders service is breaking ground for the first time in Northern Sydney Local Health District with a dedicated service supporting clinical staff and the community.

With up to 16 per cent of Australians having experienced an eating disorder, NSW Health recognises the serious physical and psychological consequences of eating disorders and the significant burden they place on sufferers and their families. In 2014, the NSW Government established the NSW Service Plan for People with Eating Disorders (the Service Plan), with the soon to be released 2020-2024 Service Plan aiming to support better access, governance, innovation and quality care. Eating Disorder Coordinator, Caroline Hill, said: “Each local health district has an eating disorder coordinator, however, at NSLHD we are excited to have a dietitian, clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist on board.

“Eating disorders have the highest mortality and morbidity of any mental health illness. Many of our patients across our community, outpatient and inpatient services may experience disordered eating behaviours, however, they may not disclose these behaviours due to anxiety, shame or guilt.” Increasing staff awareness of the incidence, seriousness and warning signs of eating disorders will assist in screening patients, supporting them and linking them into appropriate services. Accessing evidence-based treatment provides patients with the best opportunity for recovery and quality of life. The new Eating Disorder Service - Simone Jaques (clinical psychologist), Gabriella Heruc (dietitian) and a psychiatrist - supports staff as they

look after patients in their care with an eating disorder. “The team’s role is to support staff and this may be through providing team inservices, attending interdisciplinary team meetings or case conferences or it could be in helping staff to find appropriate services for their patient,” said Caroline. “We also have a small outpatient service for over 18s who live in our LHD and are unable to access any other eating disorder specific services.” Staff can contact the eating disorder service for advice and support for patients with a diagnosed or suspected eating disorder or for further training and inservices.


MONA VALE’S PICTURE PERFECT ANNOUNCED Talented Northern Beaches local Erin Masters has claimed first prize in the Mona Vale Hospital photography competition.

Her winning entry Ocean Lines Bilgola stunned judges and stood out from the impressive 325 submissions. Her photo showcases the amazing Bilgola beach as a backdrop against the ocean pool. In a competitive field, judges were awestruck with the various tones of blue and water depictions in the winning entry. Erin will receive a $250 gift voucher and have her work exhibited in the hospital. Erin said this was a dream come true. “I never thought I’d win,” she said. “I’m so humbled, it’s such a great honour to have my photograph displayed in the hospital.” “COVID-19 has reinforced how lucky we are to have this natural beauty on our doorstep.” Second place has been awarded to

Tom Neville for his entry Pelican Line Up. Tom’s photograph was chosen for its lighting and perfect timing. He will receive a free two-hour workshop with local professional photographer Steve Turner. Judges were hugely impressed with Joshua Britton’s photographs, the only entrant to have all four of his images selected for the finals list, earning him the judges ‘special prize’ of a $250 gift voucher. In addition to first and second prize winners, a field of finalists will have their entry displayed as part of the permanent art collection in the new Geriatric Evaluation Management and Palliative Care facility when it opens at Mona Vale Hospital. The photography competition was open to staff and the community with judges looking for the best

photographic images that capture the local natural environment in Mona Vale and surrounds. Acting General Manager Jennifer McConnell said it was fantastic to see so many keen photographers getting involved. “We were overwhelmed at the standard of entries. It was so positive to receive such a strong response and I thank the numerous photographers who got involved in this great opportunity,” Ms McConnell said. “It speaks volumes of the staff and community’s support of Mona Vale Hospital and I look forward to seeing the finalists’ entries displayed in the new building when it opens.”

The winning entry by Erin Masters: Ocean Lines Bilgola


Our amazing grace Nurse Grace Jones made headlines around the nation and across the globe when she saved the life of The Wiggles’ Greg Page.

The Royal North Shore Hospital registered nurse was on a night out to watch The Wiggles perform a charity concert for the bushfires, when the famous former yellow wiggle collapsed on stage. Grace sprang into action and immediately offered her help, performing CPR and using a defibrillator, which paramedics have credited her for saving Greg’s life. Overnight, Grace became a household name as media outlets from across Australia interviewed her on her experience, praising her as a hero. “I don’t really think of myself

The Daily Telegraph article featuring Grace

that helped him and saved him.” Grace is like so many of our medical staff, who spring into action when off-duty to help others who need medical assistance.

as a hero,” Grace told The Daily Telegraph .

“I’ve been trained to do that and I kind of flicked a switch. I went in and I just used all the knowledge

Solar panels at Hornsby Hospital

hornsby hospital soaks up the sun Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital has gone solar now boasting the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) system on a healthcare facility in Australia.

The green initiative is part of a statewide solar program which was launched by Minister for Environment and local Member of Parliament (Hornsby), Matt Kean, and Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard in January.

As HKH has a large roof space and relatively new buildings, the campus was selected to be one of the first hospitals in the state to have solar energy, with an estimated combined size of 865 kilowatts (kW).

The system will yield over one million kWs of power per year, saving $250,000 and 900 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.


Dr Anthony Ashton

Pregnancy induced heart failure is a complication of pregnancy that threatens the lives of around 200 new Australian mothers each year, but a team from the Kolling Institute is leading new research to identify and treat women at risk of the condition. GEnetic breakthrough offers hope for women with rare, deadly condition

“A greater knowledge of the genetics will also allow us to develop specific therapeutic breakthroughs for the different types of pregnancy induced heart failure, improving survival and maternal health. “The disease can have a devastating impact on women and their families, so we’re encouraged by the recent advances and optimistic improved treatment will be offered in the years ahead.”

Known as peripartum cardiomyopathy, the rare disease weakens the heart muscle during pregnancy. Dr Anthony Ashton said it is a complex condition, with the three different types of pregnancy induced heart failure contributing to three very different outcomes. “Around a third of women impacted will recover following the birth of their child, while a large share will manage with medication for the rest of their lives,” Anthony said. “Some women however, will have a 20 per cent chance of dying within

five years or require a life-saving heart transplant.” Researchers at the Kolling are offering renewed hope with the team identifying the gene signatures linked to the condition. “This has been a breakthrough discovery and has paved the way towards improved diagnosis and ultimately treatment,” he said. “With this new understanding of the genetic influences, we are now working to develop a test to help us identify women with the condition and treat it before it becomes deadly.”


For some people, tough times became even tougher during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why the Royal North Shore Hospital food pantry is nowmore important than ever. stocking up the pantry for vulnerable patients

The pantry, which is run by Dietitian Vivian Au in conjunction with the volunteers at The Corner Shop, has been providing healthy food to patients in need since September. Vivian said it all came about when she was working with a colleague in the liver clinic. “We saw this need for a lot of our patients who were really unwell,” she said. “A lot of them were malnourished but they couldn’t follow through with the nutritional plan for whatever the reason; whether that is financially or a lack of access to nutritional foods.

“It had an effect on what we were doing for them because we weren’t caring for the whole person, so we thought why not try this out for a little bit?” Vivian reached out to the Corner Shop, who donated some seed money to start stocking the pantry, while also becoming its home. Soon enough, the pantry was operational with several patients per week accessing it through vouchers from staff across the whole hospital. “It’s still pretty grassroots but we’ve

involved the nutrition department and some wards are pretty proactive with it,” Vivian said. “We’re creating an environment where people don’t need to fill in a questionnaire or provide personal details – they can access the pantry with the ticket provided to them by staff that has no details other than the department name. “When we started we didn’t have a lot, so we relied on staff donations with the hope of working with other organisations, but of course we really appreciate our staff and their generosity.”

RNSH food pantry


In one month 16-year-old Natalia Mattar was in theatre 10 times at Royal North Shore Hospital following a buggy accident. RNSH patient inspired by nurses following accident

The high school student recovered at the hospital’s child and adolescent ward 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 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. “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. “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.

“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 brightened up the ward. “The way Natalia 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.”

“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.

RNSH patient Natalia with nurses in the child and adolescent ward

Natalia was in theatre 10 times


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