The non-frontline frontline – the health emergency operations centre

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Tracy Higgins, Health Emergency Operations Centre

Tracy Higgins, Health Emergency Operations Centre

At a barbecue on the weekend and people ask ‘what do you do’. I laugh and I try to find the words to explain exactly what I do. Just kidding – I work in the health emergency operations centre, I would never make it to a barbecue.

For the past 18 months I have become the knower of personal protective equipment (PPE), the finder of stock, the supply co-ordinator of testing and vaccinating, the answerer of after-hours phone, and the professional ‘gopher’ (go for things).

I have left family events to make sure our frontline staff have the PPE to keep testing and vaccinating. My job has been more than full-time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have been told a number of times throughout this pandemic that it’s a marathon, not a sprint and this absolutely rings true. What people don’t understand about supplies, testing and vaccinating is that someone has to make sure that it’s seamless.

It’s been my responsibility to make sure PPE is available for our staff not only in Toowoomba but across all our rural facilities. My involvement in the program is to make sure we have everything we need to get the vaccine out to our clinics.

The health emergency operations centre is built on crisis – we try to maintain business as usual and wait for the butterfly to flap its wings. A small change to a directive in South East Queensland, a positive case close to our region, a contact tracing alert, or a cluster makes people come out to be tested and vaccinated.  The health emergency operations centre is a team of committed individuals that work tirelessly to safeguard the Darling Downs community.  I am very privileged to be a part of this team.

It's been said a hundred times that our people are amazing – and they really are. I’ve watched our staff stay back hours after a testing site has closed to get through as many people as possible before it gets too dark and unsafe. I’ve seen people hold umbrellas over testing staff so they can keep testing in the rain. I’ve seen our facilities teams bring petrol to cars broken down in the testing line, and source generators and lights at a moment’s notice to keep our staff safe in the dark.

There aren’t any non-frontline positions in our health service during a pandemic – we are all non-frontline frontline keeping our communities safe.