Annielyn Images

Running a hospital during COVID-19

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I have struggled with how to present these stories now as the fast paced re-openings and lifting of restrictions causes us to forget what it was like only a month or two ago. So here are a few reminders:)

April 26
1,030 cases: The Premier announces the first easing of restrictions, with drives of up to 50 kilometres from home and family picnics allowed, along with other recreational activities (such as non-essential shopping) to be allowed from Saturday, May 2. 

May 4
1,038 cases: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announces a partial resumption of classes, with kindergarten, prep and years 1, 11 and 12 to return to school from May 11. Other students are to follow from May 25.

May 7
1,045 cases: From Mother’s Day, Sunday May 10, up to five people from one household are to be allowed to visit another household as contact restrictions are further eased.

May 8
Pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes will be permitted to reopen from Saturday, May 16, for up to 10 patrons, the Premier announces. This is the first of a three-stage process designed to further ease social distancing restrictions and restart the Queensland economy.

Six weeks ago right in the middle of homeschooling, $2M of fines being handed out as easing of restrictions begin and cases were around 1000, we had an opportunity to chat to Ray Fairweather the CEO of St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital.

Have you ever experienced a pandemic or anything large scale like this before?
No, I’ve never experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic before in terms of the impact upon a hospital. SARS generated a lot of action in planning however never eventuated as a widespread pandemic throughout the community.

What does one do to plan or train for something like this?
Hospitals are well versed and prepared in managing patients with infectious diseases, it is part of our core business. COVID-19 is highly infectious and the rate of transmission of the virus compared to other viruses is the problem. In the case of COVID-19, hospitals rely upon the public health units at a local and state level for advice and information and are guided by the public health agencies.

Have you spoken to any other hospitals in other countries? Any other Dr’s or CEO’s?
From the outset of COVID-19, there were frequent meetings with the managers of the public hospital and other private hospitals in Toowoomba, government agencies (i.e. Police, Ambulance, Education &, PHN) – meetings were held twice a week and as the issues settled down, meetings were held on an as needed basis. Doctors have been in regular contact as core hospital services continued, it was only elective surgery Category 3 and non-urgent Category 2 that were cancelled.

How do you feel the Aust Gov, State Gov, Toowoomba has handled this?
I think all levels of Government have handed the situation very well. You only have to compare our statistics at a Toowoomba level, Queensland level and at a National level to confirm our handling of the situation has been very good.

Has there been an unexpected upside to this or society in general?
I think we now have an appreciation in terms of personal hygiene how everyone can assist with reducing the transmission of COVID-19 – hand washing, social distancing, staying at home when someone is sick etc.

Has their been any frustrations eg: closing down part of the hospital – especially now that we have done a great job in flattening the curve?
Standing staff down was a frustration albeit necessary at the time. Not knowing at the time how the pandemic would play out was concerning. There are over 600 staff employed at St Andrew’s and over 370 doctors with visiting rights to the hospital so the impact across the hospital was huge.

If there is a second wave do you feel you are more prepared?
I doubt there is going to be a second wave given we have the borders closed down to Australia. At a local level, we continue to limit the number of entrances to the hospital and screen every person entering the hospital (i.e. patients, staff doctors & visitors). It will be interesting to see what happens when restrictions are gradually eased in the future and furthermore, the winter months are approaching where we experience the traditional influenza season.

What is one thing you will always remember about this time?
Locking down the hospital, standing down staff and trying to keep everyone focused and motivated on the task at hand.

What is one thing that you miss right now?
Being able to return to Inverell (NSW) to visit my 91-year old mother.

What have you been doing to keep yourself and your family busy?
I have spent most weekends here at St Andrew’s endeavouring to keep on top of things and “steering the boat” in the right direction during challenging times. My family have been very understanding and supportive – they are also aware I am retiring mid-late August 2020 when hopefully this pandemic is over.

What is one good thing that you hope will happen after this is all over?
People understand the importance of personal hygiene and also, never take anything for granted and that includes your job and earning a wage.

What is the first thing you are going to do when it is all over?
Visit my mother.

When we walked through the door at the hospital we were told our temperatures. I thought that was great so took a shot of Kris exiting as a reminder.

The love of Dance

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Jameille is one of the most passionate Dance teachers I have met. She runs JE Dance House and when all the lockdowns and businesses were having to close or “pivot” I reached out. I saw she was offering online classes for all her students and I was curious to see how she was going with it all.

Speaking with Jameille I learned that during all of this, she also lost her grandmother and the struggle with life itself was challenging at that time. They were lucky to have Granny’s funeral with everyone there as the number of people allowed at a funeral started the day after.
Then they spent a week getting all of the classes online and at the same day and time that the students would normally be doing them. Their first zoom was horrendous as the music wasn’t working with them speaking:( They spent all night with a tech guy getting it to work.

Having parent support blew her away and she had some parents joining in with the kids which was great.
Jameille has also documented this time, she asked the parents and students of kids that danced at home if they could take a photo in their uniform, then she has created a collage that is hanging in the studio.”These are the dancers that danced through COVID-19″. She also had badges made and posted them to the dancers.

The hardest mental time for me…. I have had friends who thought this time was amazing and for me I have hated every minute of it. I am quite social, I like having children around and I like routine. I like structure

It has been a journey which she doesn’t want to do for much longer. But it has allowed her to continue to dance and her students to continue dancing.

So much has happened since we first spoke so I will break it up into 3 Parts: Questions / Photography Shoot / Next Stage

If you were to describe COVID19 what would you say about it? 
As something that came along and turned the world in an unusual direction. Some for the better and some for the worse.

How has this affected your workplace? 
We were asked to close our doors on Sunday 22nd March 2020. It meant we were no longer able to teach our students face to face.

What changes have you made in the business? 
To keep our dancers going and keep our business live we took our classes online to Virtual classes using Zoom.

What has your business done to stay open? Take our classes to Virtual classes.

What is one thing that has surprised you about this event – positively or negatively? People and the way they look at the situation.

What is one thing you will always remember about this time? 
Fear – the fear of not knowing what will happen.

What do you think is really important right now? 
To keep trying. Trying to do your best in every situation.

What is one thing that you miss right now? 
Going our for dinner and to the beach. Seeing my dancers in the studio and having my children do what they love to do.

What have you been doing to keep yourself and your family busy? 
We have not really stopped just in a different light.

Does this scare you? The money scares me – not having enough.

What is one good thing that you hope will happen after this is all over? People become kinder and more patient and understanding.

What is the first thing you are going to do when it is all over? Have big BBQ and Dance!!!

This is a memorable time for both good and bad. It is a journey I hope we will never need to face again” x

Part 2 – Photography shoot day – 26th May.
When I caught up with Jameille to do a photo at the studio, I sensed a lot of frustration with where we were at with the easing of restrictions. It was interesting to see what businesses were able to be open and which ones were still not allowed. School was back and she was allowed to teach at School but not her own studio (which has plenty of space). So I asked how she was feeling. 
I felt confused, angry and that our world (dance world) had been forgotten. Sad to think that I could get a massage yet not teach a student one on one in with social distancing. Not being able to understand that children were back at school yet nothing for dance.
To look at Australia and realise that all the things that bring so much joy to our lives – Concerts, live music, dance, comedy where all gone. Been classed as non essential yet we are the areas that bring joy to peoples lives. It breaks my heart”.

Part 3Excitement. On Sunday there was some great news with stage 2 easing of restrictions being moved forward from the 12th June to tomorrow the 1st of June at 12 noon. I contacted Jameille to see how she was feeling….
“Thank you so much. I screamed with joy!!! 
It feels like the heavens have opened and all my dreams come true. The thought of having my dancers back in the room was like Christmas morning. To see them arrive with a skip in their step today makes me so incredibly happy. My cheeks are so sore from smiling. Even with restrictions still in place this is truly the most amazing day since this all started.The joy that these children bring goes hand in hand with my love of dance!!! All my dreams feel like they are coming true again. Sharing my love of Dance fills my heart with such joy.” x