As emergency doctors we stand front and centre in the public health response to coronavirus.

In this unprecedented environment our roles are more important than ever, and we must look to ourselves, our colleagues and our healthcare and hospital systems for the strength and support to prevail. 

Unquestionably the pressure is significant. Even before this health emergency struck, the systemic issues we have long raised were contributing to the ever-increasing stressors our emergency departments and staff in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand have been contending with.

A pandemic is the last thing anybody needs; but it is here now, and we must, and will, deal with it.

I acknowledge and recognise the tremendous efforts of many of our colleagues, already facing significant additional workloads, pressures, and threats to our physical and mental health and that of our families and staff. We know these will increase before they lessen.

It’s tough, but I encourage you to take heart from the fact we do not have to face this on our own.

Your College has and will continue to call and push for all involved in our healthcare systems - from hospitals, both public and private, to pathology labs and general and private practice - to play their part in addressing this global emergency at our local and national levels.

We will continue to respond, calling for the support you need from governments, your employers and the community. As always, if there is something you need or would like to know, please advise the College and we will do what we can to assist.

ACEM has not been immune to the impact of the evolving situation, and we have had to make some tough decisions as we look to maintain operations as best we can, and continue to support you.

Many of these decisions; such as the need to cancel the 2020.1 Fellowship Written Examination, and the 2020.1 Primary Viva , both scheduled for May, as well as a number of College events; have not been easy to reach, with consequences of a decision to cancel or proceed acknowledged.

These are extraordinary times that call on occasions for decisions that may appear extraordinary, but which are always highly considered and based upon the best information available at the time at which they are made.

We appreciate the significant inconvenience and disappointment they may cause, however factors beyond our control, such as travel, leave and workplace restrictions implemented by numerous employers, as well as rapidly changing official health and travel warnings; have forced us to make considered decisions in order to provide as much certainty as possible regarding future events.

The College’s Executive Leadership Team and I are meeting daily and considering all aspects of College business as further information comes to light; at the heart of every decision is the desire to take extraneous pressure off all our members, trainees, staff and others, and enable the College as an organisation to provide services that are of practical use in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment.

Please be assured that we will continue working with all members and trainees to do what we can to get through this. We will continue to provide updates, information and resources with as much notice as possible in relation to any further changes, should they occur.  We are working in collaboration with Safer Care Victoria and members across Australia and New Zealand to establish a repository of guidelines hosted on ACEM’s website, as well as a structured faculty communication tool (based on Microsoft Teams) to streamline communication and information sharing.

As we devote ourselves to the ongoing planning and response effort across our two countries, it is important for us all to reflect on why it is we do what we do. We are in the business of caring for those who most need it, and from now into the foreseeable future, many well need that more than ever.

It’s going to be tough, but our skills, expertise, humanity, compassion, training, unity and strength mean we will get through.

Amid all of this, maintaining our wellness remains more important than ever, and I remind you that the College offers an assistance program (EAP)  to all members and trainees who may need it – details are available here.

With the storm front upon us we must support each other and understand that we will ultimately weather this. Please continue to look after yourselves and each other, and remember your College stands with you as always.
Kia kaha – be strong
Nga mihi nui

Dr John Bonning
ACEM President.