Hidden Healthcare

Hidden Healthcare

What makes Bendigo Health tick

With almost 4000 staff, Bendigo Health – one of regional Victoria’s largest  hospitals – has the facilities and personnel to cater for a growing population.

But away from the scrubs and stethoscopes, the birthing suites and rehabilitation wards, a series of less well known, but equally important roles are undertaken by employees and volunteers at the organisation.

This series aims to shine a light on some of those roles and introduce you to the people providing your care.

Helping patients heal

Angela Cousins and the wound clinic team see danger in the most harmless of situations.

Knocking your leg on a car door, stubbing your toe, or being bitten by an insect can cause long-term discomfort for certain people.

“Some of our patients with chronic leg ulcers have lived with them for 50 years, it just becomes part of their life and routine. You are just trying to maintain their quality of life,” she said.

Wounds that refuse to heal require long-term management and investigation.

Read more about the wound clinic team here.

Driven to improve health equity

Hossein Kasiri returned to Bendigo Health in August after a five-year hiatus, with more honorifics to his name but the same drive to improve health inequity in regional areas.

“I feel an element of loyalty to Bendigo which gave me numerous opportunities in my years as a junior doctor and has helped me thrive,” he said.

Hossein moved to Bendigo in 2010 after five years working in various hospitals and GP practices in Tehran, Iran.

Throughout his career, he's been determined to address health inequties in regional areas.

Read more about his story here.

Opening a door to a new life

Rushabh and Yachna Stethia moved to Bendigo from Mumbai to create a new life.

Here they discuss the importance of volunteering, how it helped them integrate into Western culutre and opened employment doors.


Preparing patients for surgery

Patient Lesley Imber with Golden Retriever Angel and owner Mary TuoheyFor all patients at Bendigo Health, their surgical journey starts with a phone call from the Patient Services team.

Liaison nurse Dee Lahn-Opie has been preparing patients on the obstetrics and gynaecology elective surgery list for the past three years.

As Dee explains, there is a lot of work involved before a person arrives at hospital, from fasting to managing any comordibities. 

“A lot of patients have complex histories or anxiety or mental health issues. We spend a lot of time talking to patients that they are comfortable and understand what is going to happen,” she said.

“Being able to make a difference in the patients journey through the theatre process is important.”

Read more about her story here.

Supporting the Karen community

For the past decade, Jan Porter has helped hundreds of Karen women navigate their Western birthing journey, earning her the name, 'Pi Pi', or grandmother within the Karen community.

Like all volunteers Jan has sturggled with being unable to enter the hospital during COVID-19, but she hopes to be back in the birthing suites soon.

Read more about her story here

Silver lining in COVID cloud

Mental Health nurse Sam Crome has found the silver lining in the coronavirus cloud.

At the start of the year, the international cyclist was at a career crossroads, pondering how to manage his sporting responsibilities with a fledgling nursing career.

He had just secured a place in Bendigo Health’s graduate nursing program but was still competing in international races for Japanese continental cycling team Ukyo, most recently in Taiwan in March.

“The pandemic made the decision for me. A lot of our racing is fly in fly out which you can’t really do anymore, so it has allowed me to fully concentrate on work,” he said.

Read more about his story here.

Monitoring COVID-19 patients at home

Rhona Bell winces when she recalls making a home visit to an elderly, COVID positive man in late July.

Outbreaks were cropping up in regional Victoria and the state was in the midst of the second wave.

“It was pretty frightening. It was a Friday afternoon, someone was required to go and eyeball the patient. I was a bit hesitant at first because I was anxious about how it might impact me and my ability to care for my family,” she said.

Rhona works for the Hospital Admission Risk Program (HARP) team tasked with the clinical monitoring of COVID patients.

Read more about her story here.

Testing times on the frontline

Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, Bendigo Health has done 22,243 COVID-19 tests.

Andrew Gay has led our Screening Clinic teams for most of this period.

Click here to read how staff have coped in times of unprecedented demand.


Shoring up PPE supply

As cases of Coronavirus began to pop up across mainland Australia, Karen Shepherd-Clark got the impression the national Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) cupboards looked worryingly bare.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is that the government handed out millions of face masks during the bushfires, which came from the national warehouse,” she said.

Karen, Director of Materials Management at Bendigo Health, began to try and secure a supply of masks and other PPE, but by late March realised the situation was becoming precarious.

To read more about how Bendigo Health worked to sured up its PPE supply, click here.

Streamlining care on the mental health wards

Jess Hibbert spends a lot of time convincing people to do things they don’t want to.

The mental health pharmacist, who looks after 80 patients across four inpatient wards at Bendigo Health, says a lack of compliance with medication is something she works through on a daily basis.

It is Jess’ job to understand the person, their background and their current state in order to help find a solution for the patient.

Read more about her story here.


COVID-19 a 'unique learning opportunity' for students

Bendigo Health was one of the only hospitals in the state to maintain the majority of its medical student placements during COVID-19.

Monash Bendigo Director Chris Holmes discusses how this will benefit regional healthcare.

Read more about the placements here.

Preparing for a pandemic

When the World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, eyebrows were collectively raised among the infection control team at Bendigo Health.

In some ways they’ve been raised ever since.

“It all happened quite quickly really,” Infection control nurse consultant Monica McHugh explains.

To find out how the infection control team has helped Bendigo Health prepare for the pandemic, click here.



Supporting stroke survivors

Nineteen years ago, Ron – a fit and healthy farmer from a small town in the Mallee – collapsed while out jogging.

He’d had a stroke, which doctors believe stemmed from a calcified blood clot from head knock during his football days.

Ron and his wife and carer Marge joined the Central Victorian stroke support group - which meets monthly at Bendigo Health - when they moved to the region 14 years ago.

Their positive experience encouraged them to become volunteers with the support group and they now convene the groups meetings, along with three other volunteers.

Read more about their story here.

Offering hope in trying times

Rachel Finch works across a number of mental health telephone triage services at Bendigo Health and most of those roles interact with people at their lowest ebb.

COVID-19 has increased the frequency of calls fielded by her team.

“We certainly see people at their worst and their breaking point. A lot of the people we talk to are in terrible situations and we can’t change that. The biggest thing we can provide is hope,” she said.

“Hope that things can change and things will change, hope for the future.”

Read more about her story here.

Helping control the spread

On two occasions over the past few weeks, Annie Caddy has been brought to tears by the generosity of the local community.

“I went to pay for my coffee the other morning and they said ‘no, this is for you guys on the frontline’, I started crying - I am an emotional person though,” she joked.

Annie has been a cleaner at Bendigo hospital* for two years, with the last couple of months undoubtedly the most challenging as the coronavirus pandemic developed across Australia.

Read more about her story here.

Dentists embrace new challenge

For dentists Gundeep Kaur and Michelle Luu, a typical day involves teeth extractions, root canals and fillings.

But these are not typical times.

With the suspension of non-urgent dental services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gundeep and Michelle are part of a group of six dental service employees redeployed into Bendigo Health aged care facilities.

The pair now find themselves reading letters to residents from family members, calling the bingo, playing lawn bowls and providing companionship to residents isolated from loved ones.

Read more about their story here.

Life on the respiratory ward

Dan Sheard and his nursing team team are some of the frontline staff treating patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

He explains how his ward and the skills required of his staff have undergone huge change to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

Read more about his story here.

The changing landscape of primary care

Staff member receiving flu jabsBy her own admission, Ewa Piejko has a chaotic work life.

The Bendigo Health board member runs a general practice in Strathfieldsaye, is a medical advisor for Murray PHN, helps train GPs, lectures for Monash University and is an examiner for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

She’s also the Director of St Anthony’s Family Medical Practice, which has practices throughout the Loddon Mallee Region.

As she explains, the various roles keep her finger on the pulse.  

Read more about her story here.


The calming presence helping people heal

Anne Wieczorek, a midwife and nurse for 35 years, began pastoral care training in Melbourne after retiring in 2008 and initially struggled with the transition from clinical to spiritual care.

“I remember my first unit of clinical pastoral education at a Melbourne hospital, I walked into the patients rooms and the IV bag was nearly out the catheter bag was full and the emergency bell was out of reach. I had to put all of that in the back of my mind and just focus on the patient’s eyes, because I believe they are the window to the soul,” she said.

Anne’s extensive medical background has helped her flourish as a pastoral carer.

Read more about her story here.

Combining music and medicine

Rob Blum has always had a logical approach to music.

As a six-year-old, too small to play the guitar, he chose the accordion.

As a teenager, considering whether to pursue a career in medicine or music, he – with a little persuasion from his parents – viewed medicine as a more stable and sensible profession.

He has combined his passion for both music and medicine to great effect, helping develop a Music and Arts project at Bendigo Health.

Read more about his story here.


Inspired by resilient babies

Kelly McMahon continues to be amazed by the strength and resilience of the babies she cares for in the Special Care Nursery (SCN).

She recalls the feeling of uncertainty of sending 26 or 27-week old babies to Melbourne, unsure whether she’d see them again.

“It’s the really premature babies that you might look after, the challenge of dealing with everything the baby and those parents need, it’s those babies that stick in your mind,” she said.

“Often they come back to us once they’re stable and to see that through is fantastic. You just think how resilient the babies are." 

Read more about her story here.

Committed to her 'second family'

Imelda Aying considers her haemodialysis patients to be a second family of sorts.

That's in part due to the amount of time she spends with patients each week and her lived experience as a renal nurse in remote and restricitive environments around the world.

Read more about her story here.


Leading from the front

A brief stroll around the hospital with chief executive officer Peter Faulkner provides an illuminating insight into his leadership style.

Recognised by most, he says hello and has a brief chat with people he’s interacted with during his 10 years at Bendigo Health.

“I get great joy from people, meeting people, listening to them and sharing their life experience,” he said.

Read more about his story here.

Immersed in the pregnancy journey

In times of extreme stress and uncertainty, a familiar face can make all the difference.

Mamta midwife Rachel Allitt has been that familiar face for countless women and their partners over the past couple of years.

Rachel is one of eight Mamta midwives at Bendigo Health that provide a continuum of care for pregnant women from 25 weeks up until a week after birth.

Read more about her story here.

The cancer trials team driving growth

Clinical trials activity in the Cancer Centre increased by almost 200% in 2018-19.

Research nurse Amy Clark explains why and offers an insight into her role and the work done by the clinical trials team.

Read more about their story here.


Determined to improve men's health

David Heath’s first week at TAFE was, by his own admission, a struggle.

“I couldn’t turn the computer on, I had no idea,” he said.

The painter of 17 years was embarking on a new career in nursing after picking up a few niggling trade injuries and insists he wasn’t the most academic.

“I was the kind of kid that used to get thrown out of school. The truth is study is still hard for me, it’s my biggest challenge, but that’s OK, I just get my head down,” he said.

Ten years of academic study, six formal qualifications, and countless months of practical training prove that David – now a nurse practitioner – doesn’t mind the odd challenge.

Read more about his story here.

'Lifesaving' partnership continues to thrive

Bendigo Health staff volunteering to help deliver free cervical screening tests for women in the region.For mental health clinicians and police, time is an important asset.

In 2014, a partnership was formed between the two which aimed to reduce the time it took for people in mental health crises to see a professional and shorten the amount of unnecessary time police spent with patients.

The Police Ambulance Clinical Early Response (PACER) program has helped free up police resources, streamline patients' access to mental health clinicians and ultimately saved lives. 

Read more about the program here.

Enriching the lives of residents

Mark Gordon never underestimates the power of a smile.

Having worked as a Lifestyle Coordinator at Carshalton House for 24 years, he’s helped brighten up many a day for residents and seen first-hand the benefits of humour, laughter and interaction.

“For a lot of the residents in here, staff are like family and we treat them that way. You want to make them smile and enjoy themselves,” he said.

Read more about his story here. 

The quiet achievers keeping patients safe

Darren Martin and his team rarely see the patients.

They’re not helping stitch up a wound, fixing a broken bone or removing tumours.

But staff in the Central Sterilising Department (CSD) – the ‘engine room’ of Bendigo Health – are an integral part of the operating theatre team.

As unit manager Darren explains, the job satisfaction of the CSD team comes from knowing the operating theatre, and the equipment used during surgery, is the safest it can be.

Around 40 staff are employed in the CSD.

Last year they processed more than 285,000 pieces of medical equipment, all of which are electronically tagged and documented.

Read more about the CSD here.

Overcoming the language barrier

Sei Sei and Moo Wah both came to Australia in 2009 after living in refugee camps in Thailand.

They began as interpreters at Bendigo Health last month in response to increased demand for Karen interpreting services.

They hope their new roles will encourage the refugee community to utilise local healthcare.

Read more about their story here. 



Dealing with addiction

Tobacco Treatment Nurse Specialist (TTSN) Sharyn Gibbs has been helping patients in the grips of a nictoine addiction for a number of years.

Since 2016, the TTSN at Bendigo Health had almost 800 referrals. A quarter of those patients identified as non-smokers in post discharge follow ups while a further 30 per cent had reduced their smoking intake.

Sharyn explains how a variety of factors have helped patients at Bendigo Health withdraw from tobacco. 

Read more about her story here.

Advocating for the elderly

As a teenager Catherine Harrington spent most weekends making up beds and helping out in the kitchen at the local aged care facility.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she pursued a career in the aged care sector.

Catherine, a Clinical Manager at Bendigo Health's Gibson Street complex, now sees herself as an advocate for the elderly, not just an aged care nurse.

Read more about her story here.

Psychiatric nurse breaks down the stigma

When Briony Lynch began her nursing career in an inpatient psychiatric unit, people were quick to offer advice.

 “There’s a lot of stigma as a mental health nurse. People said to me ‘you’re not going to go far in your career’, ‘you’ll be burnt out in five years’, ‘why are you wasting that time’,” she said.

The reality has been quite the opposite for Briony, 25, now an Associate Nurse Unit Manager at Bendigo Health’s Dual Diagnosis Unit (DDU).

Read more about her story here.

Closing the healthcare gap

Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer Dave Kerr believes the historical mistreatment of Aboriginals remains a barrier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to seek healthcare. 

Part of his role is to provide a reassuring presence and cultural support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients that do come to Bendigo Health.

He also provides cultural awareness training to staff and has been heavily involved in Bendigo Health's Reconciliation Action Plan, which is currently in a draft phase.

Read more about his story here.

Volunteering runs in the family

Beth Benbow was destined to volunteer her time for a good cause.

Her grandmother did it, and her mother Iris founded Health’s Intensive Care Auxiliary in 1979.

Beth, now President of Bendigo Health's combined auxiliaries, details how fundraising has changed over the years and what its future holds.

Read more about her story here.

Donation nurse pursues the gift of life

ED safewards listing imageOrgan donation nurse specialist Robyn Geldart is forever searching for a needle in the haystack.

But as the organ donation nurse specialist explains, it’s an invaluable needle.

Each organ donation can help up to 12 people. Bendigo Health has had two liver donations this year.

She explains why donations are so rare, and the importance of being on the donation register. 

To find out more click here. 


Cindy Bird's campaign against waste

Over the past 12 months, Bendigo Health created 626,272 kilograms of waste at the Barnard Street campus.

Waste officer Cindy Bird is tasked with reducing the amount of that waste that goes to landfill.

Oxygen masks, tubing, plastic wrapping on medical products, and disused bed curtains are some of the materials she's recycling.

Read more about her story here.



Tracing cancer through the family tree

Genetic Nurse Morgan Murphy is well versed in difficult conversations.

His job is to identify cancer-causing genes that may run in a family bloodline, and provide clarity and compassion during testing times.

He sees a range of people from those who’ve already been diagnosed with cancer to people who have been referred by a GP or specialist as a potential risk.

For some, the information is upsetting, for others empowering. 

Read more about his story here.


The mechanics of patient movement

Two-year anniversaryDislocations, chronic pain, even career-ending injuries.

Stephen Morley has seen, and heard of, some of the darker sides to life as a health professional.

But in his 11 years as Bendigo Health’s manual handling coordinator he’s helped improve staff safety dramatically, reducing manual handling WorkCover claims and improving the hospital’s capacity to deal with larger patients.

Read more about his story here.

Plaster technician breaks the mould

Few healthcare professionals combine art and science like plaster technician Jason Colston.

Twenty-three years ago he began his Bendigo Health career as a cleaner, then he became a porter but always felt drawn toward the plaster room.

The driving force behind his craft is keeping people away from the operating table.

Read more about his story here.

When hospital beds are like gold dust

Tricia Elliott became Bendigo Health's first dedicated bed manager in 2004.

She now manages around 400 inpatient beds each day.

“It’s like the deck chairs on the titanic, you keep moving them around,” she said. 

Read more about her story here.

Matthew's path to morgue attendant

Hidden away in the basement of the hospital, Matthew Darby is in charge one of the more sensitive aspects of healthcare. 

The morgue attendant deals with the practicalities of transporting deceased patients, in addition to organising viewings and comforting grieving families. 

His interest in the industry of death piqued as a fifteen-year-old. 

Read more about his story here.

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03 5454 6000


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