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A chance meeting in March 2020 between the Metro South Public Health Unit (MSPHU) and Metro South Oral Health (MSOH) to discuss office space and the expansion of MSPHU to respond to COVID-19 led to an interprofessional collaboration that has spanned two years and contributed to the success of the COVID-19 contact tracing team in Metro South Health.
This collaboration won the Interprofessional Recognition team award in the 2022 International Nurses Day awards at PA Hospital and has established a blueprint for how teams can think outside the box and forge exceptional working relationships to address emerging issues.
The nomination by MSH Public Health Unit NUM, Rachel Perry said the MSOH team have been instrumental in supporting the Public Health Nursing team to follow up over 3,500 COVID-19 cases and 20,000 COVID-19 contacts which stemmed from 10 major outbreak situations across the first two years of COVID.
“The staff, line managers and executive team at MSOH were a tremendous support and would allocate resources to the MSPHU at very short notice for whatever timeframe required often causing disruptions to their own service,” Rachel said.
“The team showed exceptional professionalism, a willingness to learn new skills, agility and flexibility working across multiple sites, weekends, and well into the night to meet contract tracing deadlines.
“Their contribution had a profound impact on our response to keep the community in Metro South and Queensland safe and we would never have achieved the success we did without this collaboration.”
The working relationship held equal footing from both sides with feedback from MSOH also flowing through to the public health team outside of the award nomination.
Advanced Oral Health Therapist, Leah Hobbs commended PHU from her time within the contact tracing team for recognising the skills oral health therapists have and that their small team could contribute to supporting the most vulnerable people in the community catchment with their combined efforts in contact tracing.
“I have been very fortunate to have worked with so many amazing people in the MSPHU. Every outbreak was a ‘crisis’ but the kindness showed to us was appreciated,” Leah said. “No question was too silly, escalation was an easy process, and the nursing team supported our contribution. Saying yes to working late nights, weekends and public holidays was never an issue due to the kindness and support the team showed to all of us.”
In all, the partnership between MSPHU and MSOH has stood the test of time managing 13 outbreak situations over two and a half years from the return of overseas travellers before the international borders were closed, through support for Victoria, 10 organisational, restaurant, and school clusters and then the management of the community cases and aged care outbreaks after the opening of the state borders.