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“On Strong Footing” - Interim CEO Praises Continued Strength of Health Service

Dr. Lindy Washington, an experienced senior emergency doctor who recently completed a Masters in Clinical Service Operations at Harvard University, has joined Orbost Regional Health in an interim leadership role. Photo: Jake Lynch/ORH

From the small rural community in which she grew up to the trauma ward of one of the biggest hospitals in the world, Dr Lindy Washington has seen a lot in her career in medicine so far.

And she’s bringing that experience to Orbost Regional Health (ORH) for the next 9 months as Interim CEO.

Long-time ORH CEO Vicki Farthing is currently filling the role of Bairnsdale Regional Health Service (BRHS) CEO while its regular leader takes long service leave.

Lindy said while she can understand why some people in the community might be perplexed at all this CEO movement, the most important thing is that health services remain unchanged and that the people of Orbost continue to get the best quality care.

“It was immediately obvious to me when I arrived last month how wonderful the staff are here, and how committed they are to this community,” Lindy said. “That doesn’t change. My job is to make sure our staff have the resources and support they need to keep doing the top notch work they do.”

Lindy will already be known to many in the region as she has been the Deputy Director of Medical Services and Deputy Chief Medical Officer at BRHS since 2019, a senior emergency doctor in the BRHS Emergency Department since 2016, as well as a GP in Paynesville.

Prior to that she was a Trauma Emergency Specialist at the Texas Medical Centre in Houston, Texas, a world-renowned facility with 9,200 beds.

She also recently completed a Masters in Clinical Service Operations at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Despite these global experiences, Lindy says what is really informing her perspective at the moment is her upbringing in a small community in rural South Australia.

“Growing up in a community of 400 people gave me a deep appreciation for how health care is often a very different reality for people in rural communities - the challenges and situations are unique and to address them we need to be thoughtful and understanding of how country towns work,” she says.

“For example, my Dad, who lives on his own, had a heart attack a few years ago. The well-meaning specialists in Adelaide, which was many hours away, told him that he couldn’t drive but also that he had to attend hospital in Adelaide twice a week for rehab. How was he supposed to get there? That just isn’t going to work for most people living in the country.”

“Good regional health services reflect the communities they serve.”

So Lindy says she has spent most of her time these first few weeks asking questions and listening, to learn more about what’s happening in and around Orbost at the moment, how communities are feeling, and what people are concerned about.

“It’s clear there’s worry in our community at the moment, with the logging shutdown,” Lindy says. “This means that the work we do in the community is especially important right now, the counselling and family support services, the community support programs. It’s been a tough time - from bushfires to COVID and now this. What we do at Orbost Regional Health will be critical to helping this community heal, and thrive.”

“Over the next six months that will be my focus - how our health service continues to engage with the community and respond to the community’s needs.”

Lindy, who will be living in Marlo for the next nine months, said she was fortunate to have arrived at ORH at a time when some exciting projects were already underway, citing:

  • The construction of a new 38-bed residential care facility;
  • The rebuild of the operating theatre and recommencement of endoscopy procedures;
  • The new community-led integrated health service pilot to serve small communities in the Errinundra to Snowy Sub District; and
  • The redevelopment of the former Merindah Centre building on Forest Road to provide community services and training.

“This is credit to Vicki and the staff at ORH and a whole host of people that have been working very hard behind the scenes for a number of years,” Lindy said. “We’ve also recruited a new Director of Nursing and a Director of Community, both of whom will be living in the Orbost region. This health service is on strong footing, with a terrific team in place, and we have every reason to be optimistic.”