The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is rapidly evolving. For the latest from the College visit acem.org.au/COVID-19

While we’re trained to deal with such situations, the past few months have provided plenty of challenges. As we keep in mind and continue to support those who have experienced recent difficulties, hardship and trauma, it is important also to acknowledge and celebrate success in our specialty.

Along those lines, I would like to extend a warm congratulations to FACEMs, Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton and Dr Donald Campbell, who were recognised in the recent Australia Day Honours List. Both were announced as recipients of the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division, with Victoria-based Professor Egerton-Warburton recognised for service to emergency medicine and Queensland-based Dr Campbell recognised for service to trauma medicine.

It is always heartening to see colleagues recognised for their work and dedication, and their inclusion in the 2020 Australia Day Honours List is a well-deserved acknowledgement of illustrious careers and lives dedicated to caring for others and the advancement of emergency and trauma medicine.

It is important too that we continue to support those contending with the trauma and aftermath of the ongoing fire crisis, the Whakaari/White Island eruption and other recent events.

As emergency response and relief efforts continue in some locations, and communities continue dealing with a multitude of issues, it has been moving to see the outpouring of support, well wishes and willingness to help from the medical, and broader, community.

For many healthcare professionals this has taken the form of offering in-kind support and expertise to relieve colleagues in communities still reeling from recent events. By continuing to look out for each other, we can help make the long road to recovery just that little bit easier to travel.

In Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Health has encouraged that offers of workforce support be made through existing state and Commonwealth-level channels, including Primary Health Networks and Local Health Districts/Networks as a first port of call. The Australian Government has also released information, including contact details to register interest, for health professionals wishing to offer their skills and time.

In New Zealand, FACEMs or senior registrars wishing to offer assistance to colleagues in Whakatane, in the aftermath of the White Island eruption can express interest, make inquiries and receive information by contacting Shona Epsom at the Bay of Plenty District Health Board ([email protected], (NZ) 07 579 8183).

The other significant and evolving event of early 2020 is the situation regarding the outbreak and spread of novel Coronavirus. As frontline healthcare professionals it is important we stay up to date and monitor developments, as part of efforts to care for and keep safe the community, patients and medical staff; particularly in light of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

As the College receives further information from authorities in both of our countries, we will endeavour to pass on relevant material – such as these resources from the Australian Government Department of Health, and this information from the New Zealand Ministry of Health – as appropriate.

The College has also issued a public statement calling for a calm, respectful and unified response in relation to Coronavirus, following some distressing and unacceptable xenophobic and racist elements which have surfaced in some sections of the community and media.

With February upon us, I would also like to acknowledge Waitangi Day, the national day of Aotearoa New Zealand which commemorates the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi between the British Empire/Queen Victoria and Māori chiefs on 6 February 1840.

The treaty has played a significant role in shaping the country as it is today. To provide effective care to Māori, it’s vital that emergency physicians have a good understanding of the history of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi and the partnership it represents, tikanga Māori (cultural protocols), and health inequities.

Each year we encourage all members and trainees to seek a better understanding of the treaty and its meaning, and this year that understanding is embedded as a key deliverable in our Manaaki Mana strategy to support and promote excellence in emergency care for Māori, many of whom are affected by disparate health outcomes.

In recent weeks in Australia, ACEM has also provided a submission in response to the draft Productivity Commission report into mental health. The issue of inhumane wait times and inadequate treatment options for patients presenting to our emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand will remain a key focus of our advocacy efforts in the weeks and months ahead. Following a separate submission in New Zealand, we have also been invited to present to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission at Parliament in Wellington on 12 February 2020.

Our commitment remains unwavering in seeking to address the issues that affect emergency department staff day-in day-out in both of our countries. As we continue to see media reports of overcrowded emergency departments, ambulance ramping and spiralling and dangerous wait times for patients, particularly those experiencing mental health crisis, we must continue to highlight the unacceptable risks current situations pose to patients and staff.

Solutions exist, and by continuing to raise and highlight the issues and calling for the necessary action, I am confident that we, as a College, and as a profession, can play our part in securing desperately needed improvements.

This is only possible thanks to the dedication and significant expertise of all of you, who so selflessly devote so much time and energy to College activities and advancing our causes.

A sincere thanks to all of you who give so much. It is important that we continue to celebrate and acknowledge all that we can, and do, achieve together.

John 

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