The past twelve months have been extraordinary for this community.
When I paused to reflect on the year that was, what really stood out for me was the dedication and hard work of staff right across the Hunter and New England regions. Our people are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.
When we rapidly scaled up our testing, tracing and treating of COVID-19 - not once, but twice with the latest Omicron variant, this redirection of resources came at a great personal sacrifice.
Some staff isolated from their families, others travelled to rural facilities to support in the response, while others came out of retirement.
Together, we converted community halls and one major hardware facility, built numerous pop-up clinics and transformed dozens of hospital wards into vaccination centres. We also provided outreach services to help protect the most vulnerable of our community.
If we look at the raw numbers, our teams (until November) performed: 663,304 tests via public and private laboratories, treated 282 patients in our hospitals, delivered 297,775 vaccines to our communities and provided care for more than 2,000 people via our COVID Care in the Home service.
And we know these numbers have increased.
Even in the most difficult of circumstances the region stepped up and got vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.
Now all eyes turn toward the new variant and the impact this might have on our lives moving forward. We need everyone to heed the advice of our public health team and get a booster, if eligible. I've had mine - it was swift and painless, taking only 15 minutes.
Among the many learnings to come from living and working through a pandemic - and they're vast - has been the value that arises from access to timely, quality healthcare. Nowhere more so than in the Hunter and New England regions where we service a population close to 1 million people across major metropolitan, regional and remote locales.
What COVID-19 has allowed us to do is to reimagine the way we provide world-class clinical services. Virtual care will be a key theme of 2022, enabling us to continue to engage our patients, in a setting they're most comfortable in - their homes.
And we look forward to rolling this out more broadly next year.
The outlook for 2022 is bright. We will continue to turn our attention toward improving the care we provide to each patient, support our infrastructure projects that will deliver enhanced health services and more jobs closer to home, maintain our laser-sharp focus on sustainability in order to become carbon and waste neutral by 2030, and invest in digital technologies that improve quality of care.
But right now, I want to take this opportunity to thank our 17,000 staff members right across the District - including nurses, doctors and allied health teams for their tireless efforts over the past 12 months.
2020 was a challenging year, and one we never anticipated would be repeated. However, as always, our teams stepped up when the community needed us the most.
Michael DiRienzo, Chief Executive, Hunter New England Health
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