Executive Messages

March 2020

COVID-19 Staff Update, 1 April



Dear colleagues,


Our staff are continuing to provide a strong and compassionate response to COVID-19 in the community, as well as in our hospitals.


I am incredibly proud of our Mental Health Services team of experts who have been redeployed to assist travellers who are in quarantine in Sydney hotels. This team is currently providing urgent mental health assessment and 24/7 support to those who have recently returned or arrived from overseas.


This follows the relatively recent deployment of our Mental Health team in response to the bushfire crisis. I am continually impressed by the initiative and commitment of our staff who not only provide outstanding care for the people of Western Sydney, but provide critical state-wide support when it is needed most.


To further support the state-wide COVID-19 efforts, 23 Communities of Practice have now been established across a range of clinical areas. Many of our staff are involved and I would like to thank those who are leading and participating in these groups. These communities of practice will support us in sharing strategies, issues and solutions, for effective planning and response at a state level.


More information including the clinical specialities, clinical leads, and meeting details are available on the NSW Health Communities of Practice webpage.


If you haven’t already, you can listen to this week’s podcast, and find the latest updates and resources on our COVID-19 staff information page.




Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive

Support for staff – Employee Assistance Program



Dear colleagues,


During this stressful time, we recognise that staff and their families are under increasing pressure both at home and at work.


If you need support, I encourage you to use our Employee Assistance Program, AccessEAP.


Free, confidential counselling with qualified professional counsellors is available seven days a week, for you and your immediate family. This service can assist with work-related or personal issues or concerns relating to finance, relationships, anxiety, depression, anger, life changes, grief, parenting, physical and emotional abuse, drug and alcohol issues and more.


Counselling sessions are currently available online or via telephone. Call Access EAP on 1800 818 728 or visit the website to book an appointment. You will be asked to provide your name and contact details – this information is recorded independently by AccessEAP and is not passed onto anyone at WSLHD.


In addition to counselling, AccessEAP offers a free smartphone app called ‘EAP in Focus’. The app provides an introduction to counselling, useful resources on a range of topics, and guided meditation videos, as well as a wellbeing check-in feature. To start using the app, simply download ‘EAP in Focus’ from the app store on your mobile phone. 


Leading staff during a crisis can present enormous challenges for managers and teams. The AccessEAP Manager Support Hotline (available on 1800 818 728) offers a consultative service for managers, senior staff and HR professionals. This free, confidential service can assist with managing issues related to employee wellbeing and behaviour, including supporting vulnerable staff, having conversations with staff experiencing difficulties, responding to changes in the workplace, dealing with performance issues, and bullying and harassment.


AccessEAP provides short-term, solution-focused professional support. All staff and their immediate family members have access to four counselling sessions per year (more appointments can be arranged if necessary). Where longer-term support is required, AccessEAP counsellors can provide referrals for ongoing counselling or psychological services.


We are experiencing major changes to the way we live and work, and the next few months will be difficult for many. Please don’t hesitate to access the confidential assistance that is available if you need extra support.


We want to support you in every way we can. I look forward to sharing more information about our Workplace Wellness program in the next few days.




Luci Caswell
Director, People & Culture

COVID-19 Staff Update, 31 March



Dear colleagues,


We are continuing to work with the Ministry of Health to scale up the capacity of our facilities to respond to predicted patient demand over the next few months.


This means both increasing our equipment orders and recruiting additional staff. HealthShare NSW is currently arranging for skilled staff from hospitality, aviation and other industries to be redeployed to local health districts in non-clinical roles. This will provide us with valuable assistance and I will keep you informed as these arrangements progress.


The number of patients we are caring for in the community has grown slightly to 155. We are working with the Primary Health Network to obtain assistance from GPs in providing community care to those with relatively mild cases of COVID-19.


I am pleased to share with you data showing the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population for all Greater Sydney LHDs this month. As you can see, we currently have the second lowest rate, which means that our communities in Western Sydney are doing what they can to minimise transmission.


Number of confirmed cases, tests, percent positive, and rates of cases and tests
per 100,000 residents for NSW LHDs, reported up to 8.00pm 30 March 2020



        LHD                             Cases              Tests                    Percent positive                     Cases per                        Tests per

                                                                                                                                          100,000 residents            100,000 residents


  South Eastern                    469                  15252                       3.08                                        48.9                               1590.24



 Northern Sydney                 364                  15415                       2.36                                        38.08                             1612.59


       Nepean                          85                    5331                        1.59                                        21.74                              1363.47

 Blue Mountains


   Sydney                             149                    9161                        1.63                                        21.38                              1314.78


 Illawarra Shoalhaven           83                    4706                        1.76                                        19.78                              1121.51


  Western Sydney                 176                  12040                      1.46                                        16.71                              1142.93


  South Western

     Sydney                            155                  10917                      1.42                                        14.92                              1051.19



It is critical that we remain vigilant and continue to do what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes our staff maintaining physical distance where possible at work in our facilities. Please maintain as much space around you as you can, particularly when walking in corridors or having conversations with colleagues. This is so important, to protect each other, and our patients and visitors.


We are continuing to prioritise orders of consumables and PPE, and monitor our supplies across the District every day. This is also being prioritised at a state level – please refer to the attached update from Elizabeth Koff, Secretary, NSW Health.


I would like to reiterate the Secretary’s message and assure you that we are working to ensure all staff have access to the PPE they need at all times. In the event that the required PPE is not available, the procedure should not take place until it is available. The safety of our staff comes first.


If you are travelling to and from work on public transport I encourage you to change out of uniform before you go home to help keep you safe. It is deeply disappointing that this is necessary. Harassment of any kind is unacceptable; please report any issues or incidents to your manager, and we will follow it up.


Thank you all for helping our District respond to COVID-19 in such an efficient, effective and compassionate way. I value all of you and your efforts to continue doing what we do – providing the best possible care to all of our patients.




Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive

COVID-19 Staff Update, 30 March



Dear colleagues,


NSW Health has now suspended all Junior Medical Officer (JMO) rotations for the next two rounds. These were due to start on 20 April and 4 May. This was a difficult but necessary state-wide decision to ensure the health system is in the best position to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The education and professional development of junior doctors remains a priority for our District, and we will continue to look at ways to upskill and support them in this environment.


Following feedback from health staff, NSW Health has also decided not to participate in the annual People Matter Employee Survey this year. It was recognised that staff are experiencing additional stress and workload at this time, and a low response rate would not provide accurate data on culture, engagement and morale. 


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Office of Children’s Guardians (OCG) has now extended all Working with Children Checks (WCCC) clearances that were due to expire from 26 March to 26 September 2020. A six-month extension will apply from the current expiry date, and those who are granted an extension will be advised by email. More information is available on the OCG website.


NSW Health Pathology continues to scale-up dedicated COVID-19 testing capabilities to meet demand. NSW Health Pathology is also trialling a new state-wide, automated SMS service to deliver negative test results to patients tested in hospital fever clinics and emergency departments. This will help speed up the process and allow us to focus on those with positive test results. I will keep you updated as this progresses.


Oral Health Services across NSW are also stepping up their response to COVID-19 to help reduce community transmission. All non-urgent and non-emergency dental treatment at Westmead Centre for Oral Health has now been deferred, following the earlier suspension of all outreach programs. The centre will only continue to provide urgent dental care, and patients with flu-like symptoms are being advised to self-isolate and reschedule their appointments.


We are continuing to closely monitor PPE stock to ensure we have sufficient supplies at all times. Following media reports of healthcare workers re-using PPE including face masks, I want to reiterate that this is not safe and does not comply with infection control guidelines.


Our current supply of P2 masks is adequate for higher risk procedures such as intubation, and there is no need for re-use. We are working closely with HealthShare which is managing state-wide purchasing and distribution, to ensure we continue to have sufficient supplies to comply with the Clinical Excellence Commission’s PPE Guidelines. 


Lastly, many of you would have heard the Government’s telehealth announcement which gives vulnerable community members access to essential health services in their home via phone or teleconferencing. This is a positive step that will reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19, and also reduce the pressure on our hospitals and emergency departments.


You can find out more in the Department of Health’s Primary Care Telehealth Services fact sheet. This is also available on our COVID-19 staff information page, together with the latest updates and resources for our staff. 




Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive


COVID-19 Staff Update, 27 March



Dear colleagues,


We are continuing to actively partner with private hospitals in regards to the management of surgical cases. We will continue to deliver emergency and urgent surgery for those people who have the highest clinical need. 


Ensuring adequate system capacity as well as patient, staff and public safety will be key factors in the delivery of healthcare services during this period.


In the community, we are providing support to 106 patients who have tested positive to COVID-19. Thankfully, presentations from our local residential aged care facilities are low.


A reminder that all PPE requests are being co-ordinated centrally. This system is in place to ensure our resources are being allocated safely and appropriately across our organisation. Please be assured that requests are being progressed and reviewed urgently. We will continue to provide more details in this space. 


We have been advised that BreastScreen NSW has temporarily suspended routine breast screening for a period of up to three months effective today, which will impact on our service at Westmead Hospital. 


This decision has been made to limit the transmission of COVID-19 and prioritise the wellbeing of women and staff. Women will continue to be notified of existing screening results and the service will remain open for women who have been called to assessment. Anyone who has queries should call 13 20 50 for more information. 


Also, as you are aware, our Local Health District has implemented visitor restrictions at our hospitals. This is a temporary measure to protect our staff and community from the spread of COVID-19. I ask managers and team leaders to ensure they are familiar with the policy and support us to limit the visitors to one per patient in your wards. The visitor policy is available on our dedicated COVID-19 site on our Intranet. 


Thank you again for all of your efforts - take care.


Graeme Loy


Chief Executive


COVID-19 Staff Update, 26 March



Dear colleagues,


I would like to start with some great news. After all of the hard work by our excellent team in ICS at Westmead today we were advised that we have been provided “special approval” for our accreditation to allow us to again commence training for the next generation of intensivists. This is a brilliant outcome from a fabulous team led by Dr Dani Goh and I couldn’t be more impressed with all of them. Well done.


Back to COVID-19…  


Following yesterday’s announcement about the suspension of all non-urgent elective surgery, we are now only continuing with Category 1 and some urgent Category 2 surgeries. The Ministry of Health has provided advice and guidance for our staff in defining urgent Category 2 cases. All category 3 surgery is being suspended.


The Ministry of Health has reported some instances of healthcare workers being harassed while travelling to and from work on public transport wearing their uniforms. This has happened in Western Sydney and other areas.


It is deeply disappointing, and I would like to reassure all of our frontline staff that you are doing a fantastic job, and no form of harassment or abuse is acceptable. Please report any issues to your manager immediately and we will follow it up. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable travelling to and from work, please feel welcome to use the facilities available to change clothes before and after work.


Yesterday, our Workplace Wellness program started and the team met with 130 staff to check in, provide support and answer any questions. Drop-in centres and wellness sessions will also be available – we will provide more details soon.


Please remember that if you unwell or have any cold or flu symptoms, the best thing you can do for yourself, your colleagues and our patients is to stay at home. All managers will be now checking in with their team members at the start of every shift.


If you are well and still coming to work in our facilities, remember to wash your hands frequently throughout the day and where possible, maintain physical distance from others. 

These simple measures can significantly reduce the risk and spread of infection, and help keep our staff and patients safe.




Graeme Loy


WSLHD Chief Executive


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