Currently, across our two countries, it is Sydney facing the most severe of these, with lockdowns set to remain in place until at least the end of this month. We have also seen lockdowns and restrictions reintroduced in parts of Queensland in response to new cases detected there. These developments along with other recent lockdowns in South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory, as well as the suspension of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, continue to remind us we remain very vulnerable, at least until vaccination rates markedly improve.

Our thoughts, in particular, are with our Sydney colleagues contending with the growing COVID case load, as well as all colleagues facing the significant personal and professional pressures that ongoing lockdowns and disruptions present. We remain in a precarious position, and must continue to help each other through.

If there is to be any silver lining to the current ongoing crisis, it must be that it will prompt a greater level of urgency, and concerted, coordinated government and public efforts, to improve vaccination uptake across our two countries.

As we continue to confront challenges, it is important to emphasise the importance of focusing on and drawing strength from the things that bring us together. Some recent and upcoming College events and initiatives provide examples.

The first is the recent ACEM Winter Symposium, which out of COVID necessity, as well as a desire to promote greater accessibility, proceeded as a hybrid event this year – both online and, for those not subject to COVID travel restrictions, on the ground in Cairns.

While I was among those initially planning to attend in person, but ultimately unable to due to the sudden suspension of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel, I was nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, albeit remotely, for this excellent, thought-provoking event. The connection and stories were all there, despite pandemic travel disruption.

COVID responses and the pandemic’s lingering impacts were rightly a feature of a number of presentations. This event also served as a broader showcase and reminder of the many wonderful facets of our specialty of emergency medicine. A reminder of the issues, topics and innovations, which we as emergency clinicians have such a key role in promoting and driving – from healthcare equity, social justice, global issues, addressing the climate emergency, cultural safety, stories of survival, local issues in tropical far North Queensland as well as some of the latest clinical research and initiatives.

As a College we are also ramping up our promotion of the Hospital Access Targets (HAT) with our colleagues from other specialities, in various jurisdictions and in the media. Clare Skinner and I were somewhat surprised that a panel discussion that we participated in at a recent AMA virtual event attracted not 40 but nearly 400 doctors from a variety of specialities. The discussion was vigorous. 

Although our College continues to focus firmly on the multitude of challenges and difficulties, not least of all COVID-19 and the acute hospital access crisis being experienced across Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, it is always worthwhile and valuable to take a moment to pause and reflect on the many rich and rewarding facets of our work.

Acknowledging and celebrating the positives are crucial components in maintaining wellbeing.

On that topic, we are now just two weeks away from the inaugural ACEM Wellness Week, which is scheduled to run from 15 August to 21 August 2021.

In line with the College’s strategic priority to develop, support and implement wellbeing initiatives that contribute to the wellbeing of doctors and other health professionals delivering emergency medical care, this week, with its theme of Connection and Belonging, aims to encourage strong wellbeing leadership within emergency departments.

A range of practical tips and resources, as well as information about Wellness Week and our recently appointed Regional Wellbeing Champions are available here.

I encourage all members and trainees to familiarise themselves with Wellness Week activities and initiatives, and get involved, as we seek to stay connected and supported, while focusing on the things that sustain us.

Thank you once again for your remarkable efforts in these challenging and uncertain times.

Kia kaha,

Dr John Bonning
ACEM President