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Hospitals 24 March 2021

International specialist doctor makes tree change to Shepparton

Dr Helen Roberts is the Clinical Director of Anaesthetics and Acute Pain at Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Dr Roberts completed her medical and anaesthetic training at The University of Sheffield before relocating to Melbourne in 2013.

In 2015, she made the decision to take up a contract at Goulburn Valley Health, with a plan to stay for a year, and has been there ever since.

We spoke to Dr Roberts about her tree-change, and how the $229.3 million redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton is supporting the recruitment and retention of medical professionals in the area.

What is your role at Goulburn Valley Health?

'I’ve been at Goulburn Valley Health for six years. For the past three years, I’ve been the Clinical Director of Anaesthetics and Acute Pain, where I am part of a department of 10 junior doctors, 13 specialist anaesthetists, an acute pain nurse consultant and a research co-ordinator.

Within the anaesthetic department and the wider perioperative team my role is educational, managerial and focused on governance – working to ensure we can provide the best possible care to our patients.

I have the opportunity here to be an active and engaged clinical leader and work collaboratively with colleagues in a variety of different roles in the hospital. These projects can vary from antimicrobial stewardship, National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) accreditation, perioperative research, staff wellbeing, and my current role which is the clinical lead for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout from the Goulburn Valley regional hub.'

What made you settle down in Shepparton?

'To be honest, I knew nothing about Shepparton before I came here! I had just completed some fellowships in Melbourne after doing my training in the United Kingdom. When the opportunity to work in Shepparton came up – I thought I would just give it a go for a year.

Once I arrived, I saw so much opportunity both personally and professionally. Having a work-life balance is so important, and I could see how much easier it was to achieve here.

Goulburn Valley Health also has a strong community feel, which was very different to what I was used to. There were also a lot of clinical opportunities.

In my first year of being a consultant, I became the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Supervisor of training for our registrars. I was then supported to develop my medical leadership skills and move into the clinical director role.

And Shepparton is such a diverse community. There are people from all over who live and work here, so I felt incredibly welcomed.'

Did the redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health influence your decision?

'Absolutely! The redevelopment flagged progress and evolution. I don’t do much work in private medicine because I’m a big believer in the public system – and the redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health represented a huge investment in the health and wellbeing of our community.'

How has the redevelopment supported recruitment at the hospital?

'Our ability to recruit registrars and consultants has already improved since the start of the redevelopment. Investing in new equipment and facilities demonstrates to potential employees a health service that wants to grow and develop – and one that is striving to provide high levels of care to the community.

When you’re working in a well-designed space that’s nice to be in and well maintained, it feels like the organisation respects what you do and cares about your wellbeing too. This results in employees being more invested and engaged in their roles, which also translates into better patient care and outcomes.'

How will the upgraded hospital impact employees and the community?

'We know that good hospital buildings impact patient care for the better. Carefully considered spaces, lighting and acoustics result in improved patient outcomes and reduced recovery times. Employee productivity and performance is also improved, which also leads to better and more efficient patient care.

We also know that people in rural and regional areas access healthcare less often than people who live in major metropolitan centres. So, the redevelopment will bring more people from our community in, because they can access a high standard of treatment and care close to home.'

About the Goulburn Valley Health – Shepparton Hospital redevelopment

The $229.3 million Goulburn Valley Health – Shepparton Hospital redevelopment commenced in 2017 with the new dialysis unit and expanded emergency department already completed, and the new inpatient tower fast-tracked to provide sufficient capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With final construction due to be completed in mid-2022, the redevelopment will have:

  • doubled the capacity of the emergency department, providing 36 treatment spaces including nine short stay beds for patients who need care for less than 24 hours
  • 64 inpatient beds
  • 10 intensive care beds
  • four new operating theatres
  • a new kitchen.

Find out more about the Goulburn Valley Health – Shepparton Hospital redevelopment via our project page.

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Last updated: 24 March 2021