SMHS moves forward from the darkest days of COVID-19

Fiona Stanley Hospital staff gather in the garden to listen to speaker.
Fiona Stanley Hospital staff with Paul Forden, CE, Neil Doverty, ED and Robyn Collins, Board Chair at the COVID Memorial Service.
June 28, 2021

Staff across South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS) took time out this week to acknowledge the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on their professional and personal lives and the many sacrifices made to help keep the community safe.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, clinical and non-clinical staff attended memorial tree planting services at all hospital sites, including Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The memorials were organised by the Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group (FSFHG) Pastoral Care team.

FSFHG chaplain Clare Oudman said the memorials were held on 21 June as it is the winter solstice and the darkest day of the year.

“From this day on, the darkness will begin to let go and light will fill more and more of our days, Clare said.

“Saving lives is part of the everyday work of our healthcare professionals, but over the past year, the whole world looked to this profession for hope.

“The memorials were an opportunity to mourn, grieve and hold close our experiences of the past 18 months, and let go of some of our sadness.”

Clare acknowledged the many losses shared by SMHS staff, including missed or postponed celebrations such as weddings, baby showers, births, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and important cultural celebrations, and lost opportunities to say final goodbyes to loved ones.

“It’s okay not to be okay, to grieve our losses, feel our pain and take time to process what these losses have truly meant to us,” Clare said.

Nursing Coordinator Psychiatry Jane Murdoch and Nurse Unit Manager Acute Medical Unit Paula Jeffery stood up and spoke about how COVID-19 had personally impacted them both.    

“COVID-19 does not respect borders and boundaries, and it was a privilege to share the personal experiences of our staff and show that as a community, we at SMHS stand beside and support each other,” Clare said.

SMHS Chief Executive Paul Forden said since COVID-19 began, health care workers had experienced the added stress of working in uncertain and potentially life threatening situations, yet the community looked to them as the people with all the answers.

Paul encouraged those in attendance to take a moment to reflect on their grief for their friends and family, for themselves and for the memories they did not have a chance to create.

“As we plant this tree, may it be a symbol of our stories and experience, and a reminder that better days are ahead.”

FSFHG Executive Director Neil Doverty said while the world had seen the values and virtues of those risking their lives to fight COVID-19; it had not seen their personal stories of loss and disappointment. 

“Today’s memorials recognise our collective grief and honour the personal memories we carry,” Neil said.

“No matter the title you hold, the challenges of COVID-19 have personally impacted us all, and grief, loss and isolation have left their mark.”

The FSFHG Pastoral Care team plans to hold future memorial services on the winter solstice as a symbol of hope.

“I am not sure what the next 12 months will bring, but I know that whatever it is, across SMHS our staff know they are not alone,” Clare said.

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