St Vincent’s Health Australia has experienced many challenges since its founders – the Sisters of Charity – arrived in the colony of Sydney 182 years ago to share their ministry with the poor and disadvantaged.

But few years have tested us in the way the last 12 months have.
By the time Australia’s apocalyptic east coast bushfires had wreaked their havoc and were finally extinguished in early 2020, no one could have imagined that even more difficult times lay ahead.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and the world changed.
St Vincent’s Health and our facilities have been on the frontline of pandemics before – the Spanish Flu in 1919; the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s – and while extremely tough, none created as much upheaval as COVID-19.
The pandemic has tested us and continues to test us.
Restrictions on elective surgery created widespread uncertainty in our private hospital division.
Public anxiety about COVID’s impact on residential aged care resulted in in low occupancy levels which in turn translated to a reduction in revenue.
And with the virus also disrupting our regular public hospital activity, the pandemic had a significant impact on St Vincent’s Health’s operating result.
But across the St Vincent’s family we worked hard to meet the challenges the virus presented, and continue to do so.

When we reflect on the year, we cannot speak more highly of the men and women of St Vincent’s Health Australia and the way they have responded.
They are the faces and hands delivering the healing ministry of Jesus, following a tradition established by the Venerable Mary Aikenhead more than two centuries ago.
Whether in our hospitals or aged care, whether in frontline clinical or back office administrative roles – from theatres through to food preparation areas – St Vincent’s has only been able to meet the challenges of the moment because of the efforts and excellence of our people.
Despite the unprecedented nature of events, our facilities and services have responded remarkably.
We met patient demand by introducing rapid response testing and pop-up fever clinics across a number of locations in Sydney and Melbourne.
The volume of testing carried out in Melbourne and Sydney has been outstanding. The Melbourne team has conducted 25,000+ COVID tests across its fever clinics and there have been 70,000+ medical tests done by St Vincent’s Melbourne’s pathology overall.
St Vincent’s Sydney has seen 66,000+ presentations to its COVID-19 clinics while its pathology service SydPath have processed 146,000+ COVID-19 tests overall.

In both Sydney and Melbourne, our St Vincent’s public and private hospitals – benefiting from their shared campus – worked even more closely together. For example, St Vincent’s Melbourne’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was turned into a COVID-19 ICU and COVID and SCOVID wards were set up in record time. Non-COVID patients were relocated to our new hospital, St Vincent's on the Park and St Vincent’s Private.
The provision of telehealth and virtual care surged across our facilities. Not only was the quick adaption of telehealth transformative for our service delivery, but in many cases it was preferred by patients because it cut down travel, reduced waiting times, and offered a more discrete experience.
In an environment of national PPE shortages, our procurement team worked hard to identify sources of appropriate equipment and confirm ongoing supplies. Meanwhile we organised rapid training in PPE across all divisions.
Many hundreds of staff were redeployed, retrained and upskilled to be ready for any number of potential responses. Some staff were moved into new teams, a new role or even a new location. Many St Vincent’s employees began working remotely and remain so.
As an example, when the nurses at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne were asked to treat some of the city’s sickest and most vulnerable elderly during the pandemic’s second wave – a group with significantly different care needs to their regular patients – they rose to the occasion magnificently because of their training.

We focussed on ensuring our people and workspaces were safe and hygienic, including implementing regular temperature and compliance processes and setting up safe staff break spaces.
We saw the uptake of new IT infrastructure and systems support to keep ahead of our changed way of work: from remote and flexible working to virtual working practices, and meetings via Microsoft Teams and St Vincent’s Connect.
And with so many changes to normal social interactions and movement, we faced – and overcame – new challenges to care for our patients and residents while maintaining our human connections and staying safe and well.
It was this same spirit of innovation and inventiveness that drove our aged care sites to harness technology to keep residents in touch with their loved ones despite restrictions on visits.

Overall, we can proudly say that St Vincent’s Health’s response has been characterised by our willingness to adapt, our determination, and the professionalism of our people.
Equally proudly, the fruit of those efforts have emerged over time.
For example, as of October, St Vincent’s Care Services remained virtually unscathed by COVID with only two reported cases among staff and two among residents in one of our independent living units.
There was not a single case of COVID among those living in our residential aged care facilities.
And across each division we saw patient and resident satisfaction with our care and service increase.
In the Private Division, our Net Promoter Scores (NPS) – patient ratings of the care and service received – have never been higher, with hospitals in Victoria and Queensland experiencing up to a 20 point improvement in their NPS score over the course of the pandemic.

During these extraordinary times much has been asked of our staff. When we have asked them to extend themselves in the care of others, we have never found them wanting.
When Melbourne entered its second lockdown, a request was made to St Vincent’s Health’s Queensland staff if any would be willing to temporarily re-locate to assist their Victorian colleagues. Knowing that they would be working in COVID-positive environments, away from their family and friends, and would have to self-quarantine for a fortnight upon their return, 20 staff put up their hands within hours.
As COVID ravaged a number of aged care facilities – Newmarch in Sydney and Epping Gardens in Melbourne, for example – it was clinical personnel from our public hospitals who answered the call for help and willingly entered those sites to provide care and support.
And reflecting the core of our Mission, when, in the early stages of the pandemic, people experiencing homelessness were identified as some of the most vulnerable to the virus, staff at both our Melbourne and Sydney public hospitals were instrumental in planning for and delivering crucial services to keep them safe.
Stories abound of staff going above and beyond in order, not only to provide the best care and treatment possible, but also share love, compassion and joy at such a difficult time.

The palliative care team at St Vincent’s Melbourne went to extraordinary lengths to organise the wedding of one of their terminally ill in-patients on site, overcoming COVID restrictions by bringing in family and friends from around the world via live online video.
The Care Services team at Werribee also went to great efforts to keep their residents engaged and entertained during lockdown. On one occasion even decorating a room to resemble the inside of an airplane, providing residents with ‘passports’, and taking them on a ‘trip’ to Italy where they visited the sites via video and enjoyed Italian food.
This is the St Vincent’s spirit. It was also there at the beginning of the year when the organisation contributed $250,000 to the St Vincent de Paul bushfire appeal, a gesture that was matched by donations from staff totalling $143,000.
The year has of course been about more than just the pandemic. Despite the virus’ presence, the regular demands of health and aged care did not take a backseat.
In this year’s annual report you will read about some of that work: remarkable firsts at both our Sydney and Melbourne public hospitals in the shape of groundbreaking research, new technology, and fresh approaches to caring for the most vulnerable; important new improvements at our private hospitals; and the addition of a new aged care facility – St Vincent’s Care Heathcote.
What a testament to our people that they achieved these outcomes in parallel to their efforts tackling the pandemic.

And nor did the pandemic stop us planning for the future; if anything it sharpened our focus.
COVID-19 may currently occupy our minds and efforts, but when it passes, Australia’s health and aged care sector will look very different.
St Vincent’s Health is already well-advanced in developing a strategy for that future. About how best we can maximise the growth of telehealth and hospital-in-the-home services; about how we can ensure we continue to model best practice care in our facilities in such a dramatically changed environment; about the type of new services we can offer to overcome some of the issues facing Australia’s private health sector; and how well-placed investment in technology can both underpin and magnify our efforts.
As always, we are also determined to share our experience and expertise with policymakers and peer organisations so we can help shape Australia’s health and aged care system for decades to come; one that is fit for purpose – for the demographics of our population and our available resources – and which provides greater access for anyone who is marginalised or vulnerable.
St Vincent’s Health Australia exists to bring God’s love to all people in need, with a special commitment to those who are poor or vulnerable. The healing ministry of Jesus is radical in its compassion and reach, which is why Mary Aikenhead and the Sisters who joined her dedicated their lives to it.
We feel confident that were Venerable Mary Aikenhead to examine the work of our people over the past 12 months, she would proudly consider them a fitting contribution of this legacy.

MR TOBY HALLGROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERSt Vincent’s Health Australia MR PAUL MCCLINTOCK, AOCHAIRSt Vincent’s Health Australia Group of Companies MR RICHARD HADDOCK, AOCHAIRTrustees of Mary Aikenhead Ministries
MR TOBY HALLGROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERSt Vincent’s Health Australia MR PAUL MCCLINTOCK, AOCHAIRSt Vincent’s Health Australia Group of Companies MR RICHARD HADDOCK, AOCHAIRTrustees of Mary Aikenhead Ministries