Albany health care experts up for top honours in WA Rural Health Awards

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Dr Helen Van Gessel.
Camera IconDr Helen Van Gessel.

Outstanding medical professionals in Albany have been recognised as finalists in the WA Rural Health Awards.

Among the finalists is Dr Helen Van Gessel, who has been instrumental in handling COVID-19 for regional hospitals as the WA Country Health Service principal health officer for COVID-19 response across all regions.

Dr Van Gessel has been named as a finalist in the clinical leadership category. Having worked in Albany for the past 10 years, Dr Van Gessel said it was her background as an infectious diseases physician that landed her the crucial role at the peak of the pandemic.

She left her family during lockdown and went to Perth during the initial response in April and May where she was advising WACHS Statewide.

“We had to write guidelines and really work out how to keep patients and staff safe,” she said.

“For a country health service that is a big job.

“We have 70 sites across the whole State, trying to work out how we can get information to people and equipment to people, make sure we have workforce.

“If you were sitting in a tertiary hospital you have a whole infectious diseases department and microbiology people and infection control nursing team.

“I was the only infectious diseases position in WACHS and we had lots of different sites.”

After the challenging year, Dr Van Gessel said she was proud of how WA dealt with the pandemic.

“It was really amazing to see how healthcare workers in the country really rise to the challenge and get on and do things,” she said.

She said she would continue to strive for high-quality healthcare in the regions.

“That is the thing that I am most passionate about — being able to make a difference and improve quality of care, equity and access for country people all over the State, but particularly the Great Southern which is my community,” she said.

Winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Perth on March 27.

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