Chief Executive COVID -19 Update: 4 December 2020

Message from the Chief Executive

As of today, we have:

  • No COVID-19 positive inpatients
  • No employees with COVID-19
  • No employees in precautionary quarantine

AGM and Open Board Meeting

Yesterday we held Monash Health’s 2020 Annual General Meeting and Open Board Meeting. We outlined how we cared for our community during 2019-20, including new initiatives and some of the challenges we faced during the onset of COVID-19, details of financial results and a snapshot of our overall performance in relation to our key objectives and guiding principles.

Many of our triumphs and challenges were beautifully captured in ‘The year that was’ video, which highlighted some of the many moments and memories the past year has produced for us, as individuals and as an organisation, as we cared for our community and each other. I encourage you to watch the video and reflect on the things we have been through and achieved together.

Our Annual Report 2019-20 can be viewed here.

Earlier this week, the Premier made two key announcements regarding the structure of healthcare in Victoria.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) established

A dedicated agency has been established to oversee a new quarantine program – including an expanded Frontline Worker Accommodation program, mandatory quarantine for people entering Australia (including Health Hotels for positive and suspected cases or close contacts), and emergency accommodation for local residents who need a safe place to quarantine.

Changes have been made to strengthen leadership, oversight and training, embed public health and enforcement expertise, and tighten obligations for employees and residents.

Additional infection controls have been introduced, including increased testing, a centralised contact tracing team, proactive contact mapping, a ban on secondary face-to-face employment, strengthened PPE protocols and the practice of working in bubbles.

You can read the Premier’s statement in full here.

DHHS to be separated into two departments

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will separate into two new departments.

The new Department of Health (DoH) and Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) will commence operation from 1 February 2021. DoH will be responsible for the Health, Ambulance Services, Mental Health and Ageing portfolios. It will continue to lead the Government’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Martin Foley as the Co-ordinating Minister.

DFFH will include the current DHHS portfolios of Child Protection, Prevention of Family Violence, Housing and Disability. Richard Wynne will be the Co-ordinating Minister. This new department will also be responsible for Multicultural Affairs, LGBTQI+ Equality, Veterans, and the offices for Women and Youth.

Recently appointed Secretary, Professor Euan Wallace AM, will continue to lead DHHS through the transition period and will head the DoH from 1 February 2021.

Celebrating our STAR Award winners

We recently paid tribute to the last four of our Quarter 3 STAR Award recipients.

  • Excellence in Research, Teaching and Innovation – Tanja Ivacic-Ramljak
    Tanja is the Library Manager at the Monash Health Library and provides customised training in evidence-based practice and literature searching to clinical units, as well as leading the delivery of library research consultation. Largely working remotely, Tanja found ways to innovate during COVID-19. She moved all teaching online, using tools such as online booking forms, Slido and interactive quizzes. Her work has contributed to a 73% increase in research consultations in 12 months and a 63% increase in the number of people trained by the library.
  • Exceptional Teamwork – Clayton Mental Health Program
    A few months ago, a patient on P Block tested positive to COVID-19 and 43 employees were subsequently furloughed. With the ward closed for admissions, team members found ways to improve the ward with the additional time they had. There was a complete overhaul of the unit, cleaning, decluttering and reorganising all communal areas. They were also able to implement a complete telehealth rollout during this time. One of the highlights during this time was hearing the consumer experience. Despite a ward lockdown, consumers expressed how well supported they felt.
  • Managing Wisely – Susanne Sturm
    Susanne is a Senior Pharmacist who recently initiated and led a successful project that aimed to improve sustainability within our Pharmacy department. She identified an opportunity to remove plastic bags from particular aspects of our Pharmacy operations, and came up with an initiative that could be replicated across all sites. As Pharmacy transitioned away from using single-use plastic bags to reusable or paper bags, they eliminated close to 5,000 plastic bags in one month at Monash Medical Centre.
  • Outstanding Care or Service Delivery – Ward 32, Monash Medical Centre
    Several months ago, Ward 32 at MMC was converted into a COVID-19 Management ward. They have since had the highest number of COVID-19 positive patients admitted and successfully discharged. From diligent PSAs running infection control measures to an innovative nursing team dealing with challenging circumstances, Ward 32 has provided excellent care with dignity and respect. The implementation of the “Buddy System” promoted stronger working relationships, and the end of shift huddle provided an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate each other’s help.

NAMAS Awards postponed

Unfortunately, last Friday’s Annual Nursing and Midwifery Awards and Scholarships (NAMAS) event had to be postponed due to a code yellow. As always, our nurses and midwives put our patients first. Importantly, we have found a new date to celebrate the NAMAS. They will now take place on Friday 18 December at 1.30pm. More details will be available shortly.

Employee Forum

Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, joined us at Tuesday’s Employee Forum to share his thoughts, thanks and to answer questions. Professor Sutton paid tribute to Monash Health employees for their wonderful work on the frontline in response to the pandemic.

Professor Sutton was followed by Glenda Bawden, our Principal Strategic Advisor, Family Violence, who talked about the impacts of the pandemic and what we should be looking out for with our employees. You can view her presentation here.

The Employee Forum was recorded and will be uploaded here shortly.

Thank you for your continued hard work and diligence.

Andrew Stripp 

Chief Executive 


Key Messages

Respiratory Protection Program (RPP) – Fit Testing commences December 2020

Ward 32 in Clayton has kicked off fit testing of tight-fitting filtering face respirators, as a key component of the Respiratory Protection Program. This priority nursing cohort has been selected by the PPE Expert Advisory Committee.

The first employees were fit tested this week, and over the next two weeks it is expected that the majority of Ward 32 will be fit tested.

Four fit testing rooms have been established at Monash Medical Centre, and further fit testing facilities will be established at other Monash Health sites in early 2021.

Re-usable cups

As we return to a new business as usual, with low community burden of COVID-19, many of our initial strategies to minimise transmission risks are being reviewed and, where safe, de-escalated.

Monash Hospital cafes now consider the use of individual reusable cups as safe where:

  1. The owner presents a clean cup to cafe staff – unwashed cups will not be accepted.
  2. The owner is responsible for washing the cup after use.
  3. Use of hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing of masks continues.

Monash Infection Prevention supports this approach.

Honouring our long-serving volunteers

At this year’s virtual Length of Service Awards, we honoured close to 50 volunteers, ranging in service from five years through to 35 years. The contribution of our volunteers is extraordinary and vital to our health service. They provide the calm, guiding voice at a time of great stress, they make coffee, they show people how to navigate our hallways, they provide emotional support and so much more.

The Length of Service Awards gave us another opportunity to hear more about their commitment, and how they go above and beyond to make patients feel comfortable and to help keep our health service running. We’ve missed them greatly this year (because they’ve been kept away from us by COVID-19 restrictions) so click here to learn more about a few of our longest-serving volunteers.

A step back through our history

One of the highlights of our Length of Service Awards this year has been the review of our history, with a video capturing some of the key moments over the 45-year journey shared by our longest-serving employees.

From the building of the South Block at Dandenong Hospital in the 1970s, to Australia’s first IVF baby, and the amalgamation of Prince Henry’s and Queen Vic to join with Moorabbin Hospital and form Monash Medical Centre…and so much more!

Check out the video and take a trip down memory lane.

STAR Awards – nominations for Quarter 4 are now open

Congratulations to all our winners! If you know of a colleague or team that you believe has gone above and beyond, head to the STAR portal and nominate them. Nominations for Quarter 4 are now open. Read more about the latest round of winners here.

Clinical Education Awards recognise outstanding achievements in difficult circumstances

Monash Health has a reputation for providing outstanding clinical education placement opportunities, and last week we recognised the achievements of our top Allied Health clinical educators. This year, these clinical educators provided students with guidance and mentorship during extremely difficult circumstances. Nine individuals and two teams from across Monash Health were recognised for their work during the 2020 Allied Health Outstanding Clinical Educators Awards on 26 November. Read more here.

The NAMAS that wasn’t

2020 has been an unpredictable year and as if to reflect the type of challenges we’ve all faced, Friday’s annual Nursing and Midwifery Awards and Scholarships (NAMAS) event was disrupted by a code yellow. The code – in response to an unexpected EMR outage – was called just before the start of the event at 1.30pm on Friday afternoon.

Unfortunately, this meant we had to cancel the NAMAS for the second time this year; as always, our nurses and midwives put our patients first. Throughout this Year of the Nurse and Midwife, our nurses and midwives have shown courage, persistence and adaptability. On Friday, it was on display once again as they dropped plans to celebrate with their colleagues and had all hands-on deck. Read more here.

Practice makes perfect with our EMR Best Practice Program

Our EMR Best Practice Program focuses on supporting existing users of the EMR by providing best practice webinars and resources to help improve the safe and effective use of our EMR. Using the EMR supports the safe, high-quality and timely care of all our patients, and the EMR Best Practice Program supports you in using the EMR to optimise documentation and clinical decision making to continue delivering outstanding levels of care. Learn more here.

Podcast raising awareness of elder abuse

A new three-episode podcast by comedian and social activist Rod Quantock OAM is not only raising awareness of elder abuse, but it is also challenging listeners on ageist and sexist attitudes and empowering older people to know their rights. The podcast was created by Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership (SMPCP) Elder Abuse Prevention Network, who Monash Health Elder Abuse Liaison Officer, Selina Nivelle works closely with on referrals and support. Read more here.

Beyond the Mask Episode 11 – Dr Iqra Ishtiaque

Resident Medical Officer, Dr Iqra Ishtiaque’s reflections on working with COVID-19 positive patients, are a powerful reminder that Coronavirus does not discriminate. Her time spent caring for patients of all ages left her with an unforgettable memory of one particular patient in their nineties. What shines through no matter the circumstances is Iqra’s gratitude to her colleagues and the determination to care for our most vulnerable patients and their families through challenging times. Learn more about Iqra’s journey here.

International Day of People with Disability – meet Luis Aguilar

Yesterday was International Day of Persons with a Disability (IDPWD), an opportunity for us to challenge the way we think about disability, particularly in the workplace. One in five people in Australia have some form of disability (18.4 per cent in Victoria), including 2.1 million Australians of working age. DHHS says ‘the number of people with a disability in Victoria is increasing and is expected to continue to grow due to population growth, ageing and increased life expectancy.’ This means many of our patients and our colleagues have some form of disability. We work to ensure our organisation remains a welcoming and safe environment for all. Read more here.

Christmas is coming…

With Christmas rapidly approaching, the Monash Health Foundation is seeking donations of presents for patients who will be in Monash Children’s Hospital on Christmas Day.  Donations of new gifts (unwrapped) for children and young people from 0-18 are very welcome, as are rolls of wrapping paper.

While we welcome offers of gifts, there are some general guidelines.  Presents should be brand new, unwrapped and not food.  Monash Health will also decline offers of toy guns or toy weapons. Read more, including guidelines, here.

Christmas decorations

For ward and unit decorations, it’s best to keep in mind that anything that can be touched could be a potential risk if COVID-19 cases were to increase. For this reason, we are suggesting that ward decorations be placed in areas not easily accessed by employees and public – for instance, on ceilings and above doors. Additionally, when considering Christmas functions and get-togethers, be mindful that we still need to comply with DHHS guidelines, that outside spaces are better than indoor ones and that the rules of physical distancing and mask-wearing still apply.

Clean up continues to progress well

Progress on the Clean Up Monash Health initiative continues, with works at the main sites of Clayton and Dandenong completed. Other sites currently have skips on site to be collected once filled or are waiting on services to undertake waste collection. Read more here.

World AIDS Day 2020

Last Tuesday marked World AIDS Day 2020, which aims to raise awareness within the community about HIV, transmission methods, and how it can affect anyone regardless of sex, age, country of birth. Importantly, World Aids Day also aims to reduce the stigma associated with HIV. More than 350 consumers use Monash Health for their AIDS care, and we average 50 new diagnoses every year, approximately 20% of whom are female. The youngest patient managed by Monash Health is eight years old, and the oldest patient is age 89 years of age. Read more here.

Continue to take advantage of wellbeing resources

Take advantage of the health and wellbeing resources we have available for you, including the Call a Psychologist service and the employee assistance program. Don’t forget the basics of your physical health and remember we have links to resources online for you and your teams, including a helpful guide to stretching at your desk, wherever that desk might be.

Ensure you are working to the most up-to-date advice

The information about COVID-19 is changing rapidly. Ensure you are working to the most up-to-date advice by referring to the Monash Health Employee Coronavirus website. To make accessing the site quicker, you can create a shortcut on your smartphone by following these instructions.


Upcoming events

Stay up to date with events on our COVID-19 website for Monash Health employees.

Southern Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service (SMICS) 2019-20 Annual Forum – Ethical Considerations, 12.30pm Monday 7 December

Read more.

Employee Forum, 2pm Tuesday 8 December

Read more.

Manager Forum, 2pm Wednesday 9 December

Read more.

Employee Forum, 2pm Thursday 10 December

Read more.

As advice and information evolve, please consult the latest updates and visit the Department of Health and Human Services and Monash Health COVID-19 website for employees regularly for the latest.

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