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It’s a given that it has been busy. Busy-ness is a fact of life in the work that we do; but we must also acknowledge the difficult and traumatic events that have punctuated this year in both of our countries.

From the horrors in Christchurch in March; to the response and ongoing recovery following last week’s devastating Whakaari/White Island eruption; to the ongoing bushfire, heatwave and smoke haze crisis affecting enormous swathes of Australia, it is fair to say 2019 has presented more than its share of challenges and tribulation. Our thoughts remain with those affected.

As much as we hope events like these never occur, when they do, we are trained to deal with the consequences; to provide the highest standard of care in the most trying of circumstances.

This was readily apparent this week, when I was privileged to visit the Whakatane Hospital, to meet with staff who so valiantly, professionally and compassionately treated the bulk of patients presenting with horrific acute injuries as a result of the White Island eruption.

As our hearts continue to go out to everybody affected by the terrible disaster, to those at Whakatane, indeed, to all emergency responders and staff in all hospitals in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia involved in the unprecedented response to the eruption, we say ‘thank you’.

Your efforts are inspiring; just as the efforts of emergency staff who responded to the Christchurch shootings are inspiring; just as the work of those treating increased presentations resulting from the bushfires, heatwaves  and smoke haze is inspiring; just as the efforts of every emergency doctor who turns up at work each day, despite any number of personal and professional challenges, and does their utmost to deliver the highest possible standard of care to patients are inspiring.

However, inspiration alone can’t sustain us. There is no doubt our work, all that we see, do and experience, can take a tremendous toll. This is why it’s crucial that we all continue to look out for each other, and ourselves; that we reach out to colleagues, family and friends, to offer or seek help when it’s needed. The welfare of our people is a key priority for the College, and I’m committed to doing all that we can to have support available when required.

Some of the traumatic events of 2019 have been isolated, and thankfully uncommon, occurrences for our countries.

The same cannot be said about the bushfires and smoke haze; nor about the chronic access block so many EDs experience; nor about the increasingly complex and frequent mental health presentations we so regularly face.

Some would have us accept these as just routine parts of the job, ‘the new normal’. But this situation isn’t acceptable, and it is why we must continue to stand united, as a College, and continue our advocacy, on these, and many other important issues into 2020 and beyond.

Throughout this year we have risen to the challenge and excelled in the face of adversity and trying times, and I would encourage you all to hold on to that as we begin a new year. The work we do is so important, valued and appreciated, and if you ever need reminding of that, I’m more than happy to oblige.

For those of you who manage some time off over the holiday period I wish you a safe, relaxing and happy break. For those of you continuing to work over a busy summer, be safe and be well and enjoy your interactions with your patients, caring for them and providing the highest standards of care.

All the very best to you and your loved ones and thank you all for your incredible efforts in 2019. Despite the trials that the year threw at us, many of them ongoing, I encourage you all to try to look up and ahead, and be part of a better future. Despite the many challenges, most of us have much to be thankful for, and we can channel that into our strong advocacy for a better world.

I look forward to achieving many more great things with you in 2020 and beyond.

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

Dr John Bonning

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