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December 2021

3 people stood outside jpeg
Psychologist Dr Sian Cole, social worker Tim Gauci and pastoral carer Natalia Dewiyani.

5 peoole stood infront of the emergency department jpeg

ED clerks Zainab Ayub, Bree Lock, Trisha Abbey, Mel Scrimizzi and Lynette McDonald.

Pandemic brings out the best at Northern Health

Northern Health’s allied health social workers, psychologists and pastoral care workers have established a COVID psychosocial response team to support COVID-19 inpatients and family members.

The team has helped manage high levels of stress, anxiety, bereavement and grief. Some family members have also required assistance with practical concerns such as a lack of food, accommodation or finances, causing them increased worry.

The team offers one central point of internal referral through HealthPOWER – used for inpatient referrals and clinical data collection – for all COVID inpatients and family members and self-referrals are also welcomed via phone or email.

Those supported by the response team can receive up to three months of psychological therapy, social work supports and/or pastoral care.

Links with relevant community supports on discharge are also a key aspect of the care provided.

And Northern Health has paid tribute to its emergency department clerks for working tirelessly to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We have 55 clerks in the team, with 20 rostered across 24 hours,’ said ED clerical supervisor Trisha Abbey.

‘People often think that we just take clerical details but our role is so much more than that – it has a large focus on customer service, supporting patients and families with empathy, assisting the doctors and nurses and handling all the phone calls, as well as admissions, discharges, transfers out of hours.’

The last two years brought numerous changes in how the team worked, especially with the patient self-registration process and the introduction of the virtual ED in October last year.

‘ED now offers the virtual service, which has been so successful thanks to the hard work of everyone involved.

‘The number of virtual patients soared so much, that we had to put in a second support clerk for the virtual role and the morning shift now sees 50-60 patients, which is an enormous number.’

Ms Abbey has worked at Northern Health for 20 years, for the most part in ED.

She has been in the current role for three and a half years.

‘The biggest takeaway from COVID-19 is the adaptability.

‘If there is one good thing that came out of the pandemic, it has demonstrated how adaptable the team is.

‘Change isn’t easy for everyone and, if you look at what ED has achieved during this time with the new registration system and the virtual ED, it is clear that these changes are here to stay.’

Keeping the team informed is an important part of Ms Abbey’s role.

At the end of every week she sends a weekly


‘This update has data about the patients seen and admitted, ambulance presentations and all the department changes,’ Ms Abbey said.

‘It is really important to communicate that, as we work 24/7 and it’s impossible to get all staff together.

‘The update includes a section on wellbeing and resources available to staff.’