It’s been a good news weekend for the staff of Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) who have been tossed into 2020 like cats into a washing machine, first with bushfires on their doorstep and now COVID-19 trying to gain entry through their front doors.
First and foremost came the news, and possibly hope, that the rate of infection of residents in the MLHD may have stabilised with two days of reporting that no further positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the region.
As it stands 2080 people have been tested and the total number of positive cases remains at 42, with one fatality from the virus recorded in Albury last week.
But just in case things change, the MLHD are more than prepared, after taking delivery last week of 300 state-of-the-art devices which will assist with patient care during the pandemic.
This cutting-edge wearable technology has been employed to enable local nurses and doctors to continue to provide care for people in their own homes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was developed by a Swiss company and enables health professionals to remotely measure a patient’s vital signs including heart rate, blood oxygen, skin temperature and heart rate.
The MLHD’s medical services executive director Dr Len Bruce said essentially the device allowed them to create a 300 bed virtual hospital-in-the-home to care for people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
But also to look after people who have a vulnerability to the disease.
“This use of innovative technology will help people in self-isolation stay connected, while we monitor their condition using smart phones and devices,” Dr Bruce said.
“It also keeps our staff safe as they can monitor people remotely.”
But if there was someone to have on your side during the pandemic, it has to be the MLHD’s own Associate Professor Tara McKenzie.
The local respiratory and sleep medicine physician has been recognised as the third women ever to receive the highest honour from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ).
Associate Professor Tara Mackenzie was presented with the 2020 TSANZ Society Medal at a virtual ceremony last week.
The Society Medal acknowledges excellence in fields other than research for the advancement of the practice of thoracic medicine or outstanding teaching or advocacy.
MLHD chief executive Jill Ludford has applauded Associate Professor Mackenzie on her win.
“There’s no greater time for Murrumbidgee to boast the best-of-the-best in respiratory medicine, which involves the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders affecting the lungs and breathing,” Ms Ludford said.
“We are so fortunate to boast the highest calibre respiratory physicians right here in Wagga Wagga, and this really does show that our community is in the safest of places during this time.”
Ms Ludford said Associate Professor Mackenzie had contributed to the advancement of practice of thoracic medicine in Australia and New Zealand through education and training of senior respiratory registrars over the past 15 years.
She has served as president of the TSANZ (NSW Branch), honorary secretary of the TSANZ Board, inaugural Director and Chair, Education and Training Subcommittee and has authored numerous guidelines in training for respiratory physicians and trainees.
Associate Professor Mackenzie, the first doctor in her family, said she was humbled and honoured to receive such a prestigious award.
“I consider my career as a respiratory physician and medical educator as a calling,” she said.
“Following the example of my father and other mentors, I hope I have shown a passion for education and teaching, dedication to students and learning, leadership to ensure a culture that values education, and vision to see what can be.
“In a time in which respiratory medicine is at the forefront of the local, national and international community, I am also humbled to be a part of an amazing group of medical professionals who have committed their hearts, souls and expertise to ensure that the care of our community exemplifies excellence, compassion and integrity,” Associate Professor Mackenzie said.