St Vincent’s Health Australia employs more than 20,000 people across over 30 locations. Providing a workplace which allows staff to flourish and make individual contributions to SVHA’s Mission, is integral to the organisation’s strategy.

Undoubtedly the greatest challenge for the People and Culture team this year was responding to the pandemic and making sure that its organisational responsibilities – leadership development, training, health and wellbeing – continued to be met while serving the emerging needs of St Vincent’s Health’s facilities and staff during this unique event.
Leadership was the focus of the team’s staff development activities in the first half of the year. Several programs were run for staff across St Vincent’s Health, with participants providing positive feedback and demonstrating enhanced leadership capability. For the first time, a targeted leadership program was provided to Medical Heads of Unit, giving them the opportunity to network and make lasting connections, while exploring ‘leadership excellence’ in the context of their role.
But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the focus of the leadership and development teams. Their priorities rapidly shifted to upskilling staff to support the expected surge in COVID cases, and ensuring safe practice in terms of PPE use and other vital infection control measures.
To meet the moment, a major education program was introduced and rolled out in all facilities, resulting in relevant staff receiving training and support to ensure their safety and confidence in treating COVID-positive patients. The responsiveness and flexibility of St Vincent’s Health’s leadership and development teams ensured that the fluid nature of the pandemic, and the restrictions it imposes on clinical practice and interpersonal proximity, did not impact on the quality of education provided to staff.

Another major challenge confronted by People and Culture during the year was developing a plan to meet St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s staffing needs as the pandemic’s second surge began.
As the surge intensified and projections for future patient numbers grew – and with rising numbers of staff on leave having contracted the virus or in self-quarantine after being in close contact with a COVID-positive workmate – it became apparent that the hospital’s normal channels for sourcing casual employees would not be sufficient.
It was recognised that a recruitment campaign would be necessary – within the greater St Vincent’s organisation as well as across Victoria and outside the state – to mitigate against the risk of staff shortages.
The main feature of the campaign was a video starring St Vincent’s Melbourne staff calling on experienced clinical personnel – doctors and nurses – throughout Australia and New Zealand to join them for six weeks in their fight against COVID-19. Successful candidates would be covered for all flights, accommodation and meals and be given a $2000 travel voucher to be used when travel restrictions were lifted.
Known internally as the ‘ANZAC Campaign’, the video was shared across St Vincent’s Health Australia’s social media channels (facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and Instagram), via a purpose-built webpage, and mainstream media and immediately became an enormous success receiving national attention.
Within days the campaign had attracted more than 300 applicants, finishing up with 29 candidates – 16 from New Zealand and 13 from across Australia – being offered positions. The details of a further 30 candidates were kept on record in the event they might be needed in the future.
The success of the campaign also buoyed St Vincent’s Melbourne staff – particularly those in the hospital’s ED and ICU – who were encouraged knowing that other medical professionals were coming to give their support, allowing them to take a much needed break.

While People and Culture worked to support the needs of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne it was also involved in coordinating the temporary redeployment of Group Office staff – based in offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – to roles in facilities experiencing increased pandemic-related demand.
Group office staff were redeployed to roles as diverse as administration at Parklea Correctional Centre, packing COVID test kits, supporting the preparation of the new St Vincent’s on the Park hospital in Melbourne, and assisting St Vincent’s Sydney in its preparation for accreditation.
St Vincent’s Health Australia has long led the nation’s health and aged care sector in reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and managing its energy use more effectively, while at the same time increasing the organisation’s renewable energy capacity.
Throughout the year St Vincent’s has pursued both group-wide and locally-led initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.
One project that had success during the year was the further rolling out of Siemens’ chiller plant optimisation technology, Demand Flow, which allows facilities to run their chiller plants (eg: for air conditioning) with less pumping activity, thereby reducing energy consumption.
Last year, the technology was trialled at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and resulted in energy savings of 857,267 kWh against a target of 753,295 kWh; an overall reduction of 30 per cent energy consumption against a target of 26.4 per cent; and a utility cost reduction of $128,590 against a target of $112,994.
During 2019-20, the same technology was introduced at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne for a 12 month trial with great affect. Overall, the project delivered the hospital savings of 921,959 kWh against a target of 467,872 kWh; an overall reduction of 34.1 per cent energy consumption against a target of 17.3 per cent; and a utility cost reduction of $138,294, almost double its originally goal of $70,181.

Siemens’ Demand Flow chiller plant

Importantly, there are a number of locally-led initiatives working alongside our national efforts that are also proving valuable in reducing waste and saving energy.
Dr David Hays is an anaesthetist at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne who helped come up with the idea of recycling the blue towels that are used in theatres for drying the hands of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses.
Normally the towels are discarded after a single use, but as part of the Little Blue Towels initiative they are now collected at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne and then laundered and packaged by people living with disability in country Victoria, providing valuable employment.
The towels are then sold as travel or golf towels with all income generated donated to the Otis Foundation which provides a network of free retreat accommodation to people living with the challenges of breast cancer and their family and friends.
Little Blue Towels is now in operation in 18 hospitals across Victoria, collecting over 400,000 towels a year, and saving 20 tonnes of used towels from ending up in landfill.

Recycle for Charity ⠀ As tomorrow is World Environment Day, we had a chat with Dr David Hays, an Anaesthetist at SVPHM who launched the @littlebluetowels project. This project involves recycling sterile single use surgical hand towels which are then repurposed for sale with all proceeds going directly to the OTIS Foundation which provides country retreats free of charge for families dealing with the challenges of breast cancer. ⠀ This great initiative has allowed for a reduction in landfill by more than 20 tonnes per year. Watch this short clip to see how you can help this great cause for World Environment Day. #worldenvironmentday #recycling #laundrymate

Posted by St Vincent's Private Hospital Melbourne on Thursday, June 4, 2020