Meet our Stars of COVID-19

Date published

05 Jun 2020

Meet our Stars of COVID-19

The Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM) has recognised seven RFDS WO employees and teams for their exceptional leadership during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebecca Tomkinson, CEO RFDS WO

Rebecca's leadership of the aeromedical charity through the pandemic ensured the Flying Doctor collaborated with key health agencies and lived up to its promise to provide the finest medical care whenever and wherever Western Australians most need us.

Rebecca mobilised her Leadership Team, stood up the RFDS Emergency Response Team and activated the Business Continuity Plan to ensure the service didn't miss a beat and was response ready.

Importantly, Rebecca's care for the RFDS staff saw swift and decisive action in segregating the workplace to minimise risk of infection, implementing work from home practices and clear and constant communication to update staff with the ever changing COVID-19 situation.

She ensured all frontline staff and patients had supplies of PPE, innovative decontamination solutions were explored, training was developed to keep up with changing protocols, the aircraft fleet was enhanced to provide mass emergency response, and critical capital and operational supplies were available.

Kieran Hennelly, Acting General Manager Clinical RFDS WO

When Dr Kieran Hennelly agreed to move to Perth from tropical Broome at the start of 2020 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, he planned to find a new work life rhythm amid the city. Little did he know this rhythm would in fact be as a 'round the clock' clinical lead for an unprecedented pandemic!

As Acting General Manager Clinical for the RFDS Western Operations, Kieran is fulfilling a critical role in coordinating the RFDS response to COVID-19 with our team and service delivery partners.

As WA declared a State of Emergency, Kieran stood up as the COVID-19 Lead overseeing the RFDS Emergency Response Team in partnership with the Department of Health, WA Country Health Service and other integral agencies.

Critically, he was instrumental in developing processes to ensure ongoing PPE needs are met and our organisational response was integrated with robust clinical governance.

Kieran's knowledge and connections in regional WA have paved the way to ensure remote Aboriginal communities with poor access to health services are prioritised in a COVID response through his ability to facilitate links with other support organisations.

Kieran's attention to detail, good humour, collaborative nature and clinical expertise make him an RFDS COVID-19 star!

Andrew Hooper, Co-Head of Medical RFDS WO

Dr Andrew Hooper is a Royal Flying Doctor Service WA COVID-19 pioneer - having been the very first WA doctor on the inaugural suspected COVID-19 transfer on 3 February. Onboard the flight were two suspected COVID-19 patients on a repatriation flight for Australian residents from Wuhan, China.

This retrieval was particularly significant for Andy as he was able to put into practice first-hand the clinical protocols he had been developing weeks earlier in response to the emerging pandemic. The mission saw him feel the heat of working in full PPE., understand the dynamics of a COVID-19 transfer and empathise with staff on the frontline.

Andy was instrumental in developing the initial Clinical Guidelines for COVID-19 aeromedical retrievals and he co-authored the RFDS COVID-19 Master Clinical Manual. He has been a critical member of RFDS's COVID-19 Emergency Management Team and led the clinical education team to create and implement effective new infection control and PPE processes.

Andy's aeromedical expertise and tireless energy in establishing the RFDS clinical response has meant the service was response ready and frontline staff were kept safe. Andy continues to innovate and is now trialling new telehealth platforms for RFDS video consultations with isolated patients.

Aviation Team, RFDS WO

Royal Flying Doctor Service Pilots take on a special role and each day never know where their aircraft and expertise will be needed the most in WA - across the world's largest health jurisdiction.

The Aviation Team for RFDS Western Operations is a unique team of pilots, engineers and support staff who travelled 7.8 million kilometres around WA to retrieve and treat 8,682 patients in the past financial year. With five bases at Jandakot, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Meekatharra and Port Hedland, the Aviation team fulfils a demanding role everyday, which has been further challenged by COVID-19.

The Aviation team has responded to the pandemic by increasing its people power by 30 per cent to prepare for possible surges in flights in response to potential COVID-19 outbreaks. This has been achieved by cancelling planned leave, being even more flexible than usual in rostering and taking on extra duties to assist operational crew before and after COVID-suspected flights

The need to wear appropriate PPE has added to challenging operating conditions for pilots. Aviation Training and Checking requirements, which ensure the safety and professional operation of RFDS WO aircraft, have also been modified by the team to accommodate the State Government's regional travel restrictions.

Engineering & Stores Team, RFDS WO

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Operations Engineering team has demonstrated innovation and personal commitment to our response to COVID-19 and to ensure our aircraft are response ready for aeromedical retrievals across WA's vast regions.

The team continues to provide 'round the clock' support and voluntarily spread their shifts out to start as early as 5am and late as 10pm outside normal working hours and without additional pay, to abide by physical distancing protocols, and to ensure RFDS aircraft are online at all times.

Many staff have worked five weeks straight and taken on extra weekend work in addition to usual on-call duties. They have worked tirelessly!

In addition to their usual servicing schedules, the team has innovated to refit bags inside the aircraft that are easier to decontaminate; installed specific power supply for aircraft fumigation following COVID-19 transfers; and installed new infection control curtains between the cockpit and cabin.

The engineering role is critical to ensure aviation safety, COVID-19 equipment and protocols are seamlessly embedded within the aircraft and that the medical crews and pilots can quickly take off for COVID-19 retrievals. These unsung heroes literally keep us flying!

Paul Ingram, Head of Nursing RFDS WO

Paul Ingram has become a super sleuth in sourcing decontamination and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies to keep his frontline teams safe and response ready during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Head of Nursing and the Infection Control Lead for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Operations, Paul spent countless hours sourcing TGA standard PPE gloves, masks, gowns, alcohol rub and other critical crisis response equipment to ensure all frontline staff across all five RFDS bases in regional WA had ready access and the highest standard supplies when called upon to transfer and treat a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient.

To ensure consistent PPE supply, Paul implemented a daily stock level report noting minimum stock requirements and projected need.

Paul worked with independent Infection Control consultants to ensure continued best practice in the evolving COVID-19 situation and to test new aircraft decontamination procedures following suspected or confirmed COVID-19 transfers. This 'fumigation' process, implemented by Paul, has now been adopted by other services and the equipment and solution used has been proven to kill COVID-19 in 30 seconds!

Importantly, Paul's warmth and genuine care for his team has seen him reassuringly communicate and lead his staff through the uncertainty of this pandemic.

Jonathan Moore, Facilities Manager RFDS WO

Every organisation has a 'magician' working behind the scenes ensuring the uninterrupted daily flow of the business. Jonathan Moore, Facilities Manager for the Royal Flying Doctor Service WA, is one of these people.

Jonathan has kept everyone safe at RFDS, playing a critical role in achieving widespread physical changes at RFDS's five bases. Jonathan worked with base administrators and multiple disciplines across the State to implement new physical segmentation to minimise risks associated with staff interaction, particularly for critical medical and aviation employees.

The changes saw additional kitchen and bathroom facilities quickly installed in Jandakot, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie to achieve staff separation and ensure daily coffee kept brewing and staff could respond to COVID-19 without inconvenience. Jonathan coordinated new entry points and access routes for staff to move in and around buildings, along with new security access. For example, a new entry point has provided pilots with separate access to their work, sleeping, recreation and kitchen facilities.

Importantly, Jonathan has overseen the introduction of new decontamination zones at all bases for flight crew after COVID-19 retrievals. In additional to physical changes, new cleaning, hand hygiene and laundering regimes have been set up.