Austin Health Medical Alumni Association


Newsletter 10
June 2020

Welcome to the June 2020 e-newsletter of your Association.
The newsletter contains a round-up of events held throughout the year and news of events planned for the future.
Past issues can accessed by  clicking here

If you know of any colleagues who are not receiving our emails, then please let us know by clicking here.  Or forward this email to them so they can sign up here
Anyone who has worked at the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, or the Royal Talbot Hospital in any medical capacity is automatically an Alumnus of the AHMAA.
Welcome to new interns, registrars and residents.  The beginning of 2020 has been novel in so many ways.  Many of the items relate to the way we are working differently because of the pandemic.

The Austin Diaspora 

We have received a few stories from Alumni and are are always happy to hear from people and share their news. Austin alumni are providing vital health care in diverse communities including  metropolitan, regional, rural, remote and overseas. Please let us know if you have some news to share.

Austin Clinical School 

Medical Students have made an integral contribution of to the health service response to COVID-19.
When the COVID pandemic forced the University to become a virtual campus overnight; students offered to help.
Medical Students have made valuable contributions in the COVID call centre and also vital updates to data collection and publication for the Dept of Medicine Grand Round.

The Clinical School is busy preparing the final year students for Intern readiness.
Currently the 2nd and 3rd year students are still learning remotely but the final year students have begun clinical placements after 2 months of isolation.
Modifications have had to be made to the 3rd year and MDRP (Research project) curricula for 2020 and cautious planning has begun for the re-entry to clinical placements in late June and July.

We anticipate 66 Final year students (MD 4th year) will return to the Austin in second semester after completing the first semester MD Research Project.  Due to the pandemic, there will be no vocational selective rotations, the MD 4 students will be completing three Trainee Intern rotations.  Forty students have already started back on 1 June, 2020.
Rebekah Saunders and Emma Banfield.

Austin News 2020

  • Covid-19 at Austin Health
  • CEO changes
  • Changed Ways
  • Pitch night

Covid-19 at Austin Health
The first case of Covid-19 (the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2) was recorded in Victoria at the beginning of March. Within a short time, Victorian cases were doubling every 2-3 days and we were receiving worrying reports about the impact of Covid-19 in new regions outside China, most notably northern Italy. We heard horror scenarios of overwhelmed intensive care units, the need to make harsh decisions about who would have access to ICU beds or even to oxygen and the deaths of clinicians who were working in impossible situations.

By early March our acting CEO Max Alexander was given official but initially secret DHHS modelling that indicated up to 400 expected inpatients for Austin ICU alone by mid-July at the peak of the pandemic, if this rate of expansion continued.

A rapid all-of-hospital response was required that both protected our staff from patients with Covid-19 but also cleared space so our patients would have the best chance of survival. Elective surgery was halted, non-front line staff were asked to work from home, space was created, ventilators were counted and readied. Immediately it was clear that personal protective equipment would be a major challenge due to national shortages. To deal with a huge demand for e-communication our IT department rolled out Microsoft Teams in 2 weeks instead of the planned 6 months. Suddenly, with less glitches than expected for such a big project we could meet seamlessly on our desk computers, or smart-phones with whoever was needed at no notice – certainly a revolution that has hugely increased our productivity at Austin Health. For the record the last physical Austin Grand Round was held on March 11 with the John Lindell theatre packed out with people sitting on the floor and in the isles – ironically the topic was Covid-19. Perhaps the end or an era? Interestingly the webinar series that has replaced Grand Rounds has also been very well attended and extended our reach to our local GPs, interstate and even overseas.

We divided our ED into a Covid and non-Covid stream which required detailed process and physical re-design and established a highly efficient screening clinic based in clinic 3 in the Austin campus. At the time of writing Austin is screening hundreds of people a day, 7 days a week. So far, over 130 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed through the Austin clinic with thousands upon thousands of negative tests. Smart IT has been developed to support testing along with a call centre. If you need a test go online to or contact the call centre on 9496 6606.

A new Covid unit was created and opened at the beginning of April – a joint enterprise of Infectious Diseases, General Medicine and Respiratory Medicine to care for the expected demand. From late March Austin admitted over 20 patients with confirmed Covid-19, 5 of whom required ICU, one of whom unfortunately died. There were some great success stories too – a 93 year old woman who triumphantly went home from the Covid ward to a standing ovation from her carers (and who featured on TV news), and  a 70 year old local who spent 2 months in hospital including 37 days in ICU as a complication of attending going to share a glass of wine with a friend in Eaglemont on St Patricks Day – such is the power of this new virus but also the human spirit and modern medical care.

There have been vast changes in the way we work at Austin – the SMS have never been more connected because we can meet virtually anytime. For example, the monthly SMS Executive meeting frequently has more than 50 attendees compared with the usual 10 or so usual suspects. We have rapidly rolled out Telehealth which many of our outpatients find very convenient. Of course this is not a solution for those who need hands-on care. 

As I write we have no inpatients at Austin with confirmed Covid-19 but we still have a large and busy Covid unit. Why is this? Currently anyone with the mildest symptoms that could suggest Covid-19 needs testing and isolation. Failure to do this can lead to intra-hospital transmission and deaths of other vulnerable patients. There are many patients who attend with other illnesses that also have to be screened for Covid-19 and although turnaround time for test results has been progressively reduced there continues to be significant need for clearing those with “Suspected-Covid” (known locally as “scovid”) so they can be released into the general hospital for the care they really need.

The Austin has performed admirably during this difficult time and some of our Covid processes have been copied by other hospitals. We have done well, we have changed and improved. Very fortunately our National and State Leaders have done well too so most of our preparedness will not be needed (we hope), at least until the next Pandemic.

Prof Paul Johnson
Austin Infectious Diseases Service
Director of Research
26th June 2020

CEO changes
Mr Adam Horsburgh has been appointed CEO beginning on 15 June. 
Mr Horsburgh comes to Austin Health from Royal Melbourne Hospital where he has been Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer after also spending time with DHHS and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.  He brings extensive experience in operational health service management within Australia and the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Mr Horsburgh is looking forward to working with the Austin community to build on our strong reputation for providing excellent patient care, research and teaching 

Dr Max Alexander has completed his five month appointment as interim CEO .  Max Alexander did an outstanding job during the trying pandemic times. Dr Alexander has overseen the transition between chief executives with exceptional grace and resolve.  

Changed ways
As is the case with many health services Austin has been adroit at the pivot to Telehealth for Outpatients.  Patients report being happier with the circumstances of their consultation - no travelling to make appointments and no parking fees.  The Health Service will work  to maintain the benefits of this method of consultation for those who are interested.

SMS pitch night
In late May a group of 120+ senior medical staff got together (virtually) to participate in a Pitch Night. 
The thinking behind this event was to openly discuss the single idea that each unit feels is the most important thing to be done at Austin Health.  Then, transparently decide which issue the senior medical staff would support as the highest priority.   
The number and quality of ideas is encouraging as is the level of engagement and enthusiasm.
Members of the hospital executive are working with each of the 'Pitchers' to progressing the ideas through the various appropriate channels to ensure the best outcomes for Austin and our patients.

The pitches with the greatest support from the SMS were 
Designated ECR- Endovascular Clot Retrieval in the North-Eastern Corridor  Mark Brooks/ Richard MacDonell
The Diagnostics’ Dilemma...(Notification of critical, significant and unexpected findings –a problem harder to solve than it should be)  Natalie Yang
Beyond Austin…  (The case for better Austin Mercy Collaboration)  Natalie Yang
SuperTeleHITH Paul Johnson
7-day a week hospital  David Smallwood

Trainee News

The 2020 written exam pass rate was 91% compared to the national pass rate of 77.8%. Congratulations to all trainees for this great result, and thanks to all clinicians who assisted with examination preparation.
The clinical exams have been put on hold until 2021, with further information to follow (from the RACP).

Sharne Westblade
Central North West BPT Consortium
incorporating: Austin Health, Bendigo Health, Northern Health, Wimmera Healthcare Group

Trainees have been responding to the covid pandemic with agility, despite the halt on elective surgery. We continue to support our trainees and further their preparation for the examinations. 

The Fellowship examination ‘writtens’ will be held in Australia and New Zealand on 8 September at the usual sites in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington. 
The Fellowship examination viva/clinicals will be held in Auckland, New Zealand on 9-10 October and 16-18 October in Melbourne, Australia (with a backup city in Australia being explored) 

Some specialties are considering holding their examination in one country only.

A Generic Surgical Sciences Examination (GSSE) will be held before the end of 2020. Where specialties require them, Specialty Specific Examinations (SSEs) will be held before the end of 2020.

No further Clinical Examinations will be held in 2020. 

Austin continues to provide a wide range of unique training opportunities to our trainees and ACEM have commended us on the high standard or our education and training program. Our Emergency Department training program has successfully transitioned to online teaching using Microsoft Teams. We thank the IT department for being so responsive and allowing us to get our entire cohort of registrars and consultants on the new Teams platform. We have also been running regular Covid simulations within our department for both adult and paediatric patients which has been essential training for our frontline ED staff.
Our exam success continued in the ACEM Fellowship Examination OSCE and congratulations to Dr Qasim Sahi on his success. Our successful Primary Examination written candidates were Brandon Cheong, Nicole Smith, Tom Martin and Suzanne Luong.

Dr Victor Lee

Austin Radiology Trainees have had exams suspended due to COVID-19.  The registrars have had to accommodate changes to their rosters and work in line with COVID-19 requirements and have coped amicably.  Trainees await news from RANZCR about potential exam plans for the 2nd half of 2020.  Recruitment for 1st year registrars for 2021 will commence soon. 

Natalie Yang

Honours and Awards
The  following member of the Austin Community have been honoured

Australia Day 2020
Professor John (Michael) Holroyd PERMEZEL, Officer of the Order of Australia
For distinguished service to medicine, and to medical education, in the fields of obstetrics and gynaecology, and to professional colleges.
Professor Jeffrey David ZAJAC. Officer of the Order of Australia
For distinguished service to medical research and education, particularly in the field of endocrinology, and to professional societies.
Emeritus Professor Brendan CROTTY, Member of the Order of Australia
For significant service to health education, and to the community.

Queens Birthday 2020
Dr Robert John BARTLETT, Member of the Order of Australia
For significant service to orthopaedic medicine, and to national and international medical associations.


The Alumni community have recently lost the company of three luminary medical specialists.  Detailed obituaries have been circulated

Mr William (Bill) Gilbert 
Plastic Surgeon
Mr Gilbert began his affiliation with the Austin Hospital in 1976.
He was an extraordinary fellow with an extraordinary brain who was admired by colleagues, staff and patients for his his compassion, honesty and technical brilliance. Always fair and honest, his wisdom, knowledge and anecdotes will be missed.  Read the complete obituary here

Dr Mary-Rose Stewart
General Physician
Dr Stewart was renowned for her diagnostic and management skill.  Her affiliation with the Austin Hospital began in 1972/3.  She was an inspiring mentor, being both supportive and demanding of high standards.  Many people will miss this extraordinary woman, each with their own stories and all richer for the time spent with Mary Rose. Read the complete obituary here

Dr Fred Tosolini
Dr Tosolini was appointed Director of Medical Microbiology at the Austin Hospital in 1976.  He was an active contributor in many areas of medical microbiology especially as a writer on the first eight editions of the Therapeutic Guidelines.  Fred was a highly respected friend and colleague whose patient and gentle wisdom and advice will be greatly missed. Fred was a true Gentleman. Read the complete obituary here

Annual Dinner

Currently we plan to hold the 2020 dinner on Friday 13 November 2020, and welcome all alumni to attend.
Alumni together with the Senior Medical Staff and invited registrars have enjoyed the chance to get together with colleagues from the past and with current consultants and registrars at this end of year function. Booking details will be available August/September 2020.

Golf Day

The annual Austin Health Medical Alumni Golf Day is planned for Friday, 16th  October at Kew Golf Club.
Our Alumni are encouraged to play in this longstanding and happy event.

Please send me a reminder in August 2020 about the golf day


We look forward to welcoming you back to Austin Health and keeping in touch with all out Alumni.

Gwynne Thomas

Emeritus Associate Professor Gwynne W Thomas OAM

Austin Health Medical Alumni Association
PO BOX 5555 Heidelberg, Victoria 3084. telephone 03 9496 5896
Secretary Geraldine Richards telephone 03-9496 5896

Contact the Austin Health Medical Alumni Association via email to update your email address.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Austin Health Medical Alumni Association, Austin Health · PO Box 5555 · Heidelberg, Vic 3084 · Australia