A NSW paediatric nurse has been recognised for her inspirational care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Western NSW Local Health District’s (LHD) Dominique Spork was named Regional Winner of the NSW 2022 Michelle Beets Award for Inspirational Paediatric Care announced on Monday by the Humpty Dumpty Foundation.
Paediatric Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC) and Nurse Manager, Dominique developed ways to safely manage COVID-19 positive children through the Western NSW LHD’s virtual service.
“Last August COVID hit Dubbo hard and fast. We always knew it was coming but we’d been exempt from it. When it hit Dubbo the outbreak started in one of our schools and the paediatric population tested positive.
“It hit a vulnerable population pretty hard, and a heavily unvaccinated population. There was a lack of knowledge and people just not knowing what was around the corner,” Dominique said.
More than 2,000 students were in isolation at home after COVID-19 cases were identified in school communities around Dubbo in mid-August 2021.
Dominique found herself one of two CNCs called in to meetings with government officials and other key health stakeholders to advise and assist in the response.
“My job was the paediatric patients. We set up a virtual hospital in four days. We were lucky Western NSW LHD was already leading the way in virtual care so we used existing teams including the rural generalist network and in-home monitoring and were able to work together in collaboration. It really was a breakdown of silos,” she said.
Western NSW LHD established COVID Care in the Community, a collaborative care model for positive COVID-19 patients to be monitored and consulted from their own home. Since it started 16 months ago, over 17,000 patients have used the service staffed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, allied health, and the Aboriginal Health Team.
“We localised it for our community. The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network had flying squads that go out to patient’s homes. Given our LHD covers 250,000 square kilometres, we do not have the capacity to do that. We cover from Bathurst to Bourke and everywhere in between. We were solely virtual,” Dominique said.
Dominique also worked collaboratively with the Western NSW LHD’s Aboriginal Health Team to arrange food and other support services to a very large geographical footprint, including those living in remote communities.
Winners of the Metropolitan and Regional awards receive $25,000 worth of medical equipment through the Humpty Dumpty Foundation for use in their facility and a $5,000 bursary for professional development, training, or research.
“I hope to use it towards professional development in helping me in bridging the gap between rural and metropolitan healthcare. I am really passionate that people have equal access to healthcare no matter where they live,” Dominique said.
Funding for the service finishes at the end of this year. Dominique is hopeful the model of care will be used elsewhere, with one in three people in Western NSW not having a GP.
“What we have proven with this model of care is that you don’t need bricks and mortar to monitor patients and keep them safe at home.”
The Michelle Beets Award for Inspirational Paediatric Care honours the memory of Michelle Beets, a nurse who worked at Royal North Shore Hospital and tragically lost her life in 2010.
The annual award is open to individual health professionals employed within NSW Health delivering outstanding paediatric care across the full spectrum of clinical practice.
Other 2022 award recipients and commendations
Metropolitan winner from Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Head Orthoptist Katie Geering, developed a dedicated paediatric orthoptic department which improved paediatric eye care.
Metropolitan Highly Commended recipient Clinical Nurse Consultant in the Liver Transplantation Unit of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Janine Sawyer, was a key driver in establishing telehealth in the liver clinic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regional Highly Commended recipient Kempsey District Hospital Midwife, Patricia Neal, was acknowledged for her expertise in caring for unwell neonates and their families as well as her dedication to the teaching of junior staff.