Thinking back to February 2020 as the pandemic was starting to spread around the world, we acted quickly to free up the health sector and our own agency so we were all best placed to respond to what was coming.
We immediately postponed about 100 in-person events to limit transmission risk, and shelved our regular newsletters to streamline important COVID-19 related messages through one trusted source – the department. We postponed many of our improvement projects and partnerships, understanding that health services’ priorities would be on preparation and response, as well as our plans for organisational transformation, announced just the month before. And we were the first in the department to have an entirely virtual workplace, so we could keep operating under trying times.
Our main reason for scaling back our engagement was to not over-burden a health sector during such challenging times. But in holding over many of our business as usual activities, it also freed up our staff to support the department and the state. At times, around three quarters of our workforce was diverted and seconded out to support the government’s COVID-19 response – using their expertise in contact tracing, epidemiology, sector/public communications, stakeholder engagement, and on the ground support at public housing or hotel quarantine. Our clinical leads from our former clinical networks came together to inform specialist COVID-19 guidelines, and to advise us on unintended consequences on our health system. Even our Chief Medical Officer Prof Andrew Wilson moved (virtual) desks to the department to lead sector collaboration on PPE and healthcare worker wellbeing.
For those of us left in SCV (at times just 30 people!) we still managed to deliver vital services such as safety reviews and alerts, as well as important work that could progress without our trademark collaboration with clinicians, health services and consumers.
For instance, we released our second strategic plan, and soft launched many pieces of guidance developed with clinicians before the pandemic.
Much of our work is starting back up again
Leading the way is our Safer Baby and Better Births for Women collaboratives, which – while interrupted by the pandemic – have been driving some incredible results in reducing preventable stillbirths and severe tearing during child birth.
Many improvement projects are also back up and running. While the momentum was disrupted, many of you – especially those who on our specialist working groups - will notice this activity picking up again.
We also have open EOIs for our new Timely care collaborative, Improvement science in action program and the Healthcare worker wellbeing centre advisory group along with new Adverse patient safety event review training.
Picking up our regular communications with you again, we will be promoting many of the new clinical guidelines we were able to finalise over the past year. We’ll roll out more in coming months.
We will finalise our org transformation
Just before the pandemic hit, we announced that SCV was restructuring and refocusing its work. While the new organisational structure was put in place in February 2020, we had not yet fully implemented other changes. For instance, fully integrating our former clinical networks into four population-based centres of clinical excellence – intended to give clinicians and consumers the opportunity to work on projects spanning a number of related specialties, not just one.
As many of you would be aware, our CEO Prof Euan Wallace was appointed Secretary of the Department of Health late last year. It’s a sad loss for us at SCV, but a huge gain for the health sector! The Minister will shortly be appointing his replacement.
Euan not only established our agency, but also the way we work – with a firm focus on collaborating with the sector and co-designing with consumers. This is cemented into our strategic plan moving forward, so while our structure and the way we seek advice/input has changed, the approach to our work will not.
Thank you to all of you who worked hard over the past year to protect and represent Victorians. Thank you also for your patience while much of work and engagement was postponed. It’s great to be working with you again in our new normal.