“Excited and a little bit terrified.” That’s how Dr Emma McCahon remembers feeling when she was tasked with opening and running the state’s biggest vaccination centre.
Emma is the executive director of Qudos Bank Arena Vaccination Centre, which has the capacity to vaccinate an incredible 30,000 people per day or 1,800 people per hour.
In its first month of operation, over 210,000 people were vaccinated – an especially impressive effort when you consider how quickly the team got moving.
“From when we were told to go to when we opened the doors it was 12 days,” Emma said.
“It’s a huge project; much bigger than anything I’ve done before and really exciting. So it was quite terrifying to think, oh, this is big and we have to pull this off to keep Sydney safe.
“But at the same time it’s really exciting to actually see the whole team come together to make it work.”
It’s a departure from Emma’s usual role as director of medical services at Western Sydney Local Health District, seeing her make calls about everything from infrastructure to ponchos.
She also no longer manages just doctors but a multidisciplinary team including nurse immunisers, Qantas staff, Baxter Healthcare pharmacists, allied health, Qudos Bank Arena staff and student vaccination workers from an array of disciplines.
“When you walk around the floor, people are just really excited that they’re doing a good job and I’m so proud. We’re such an amazing team,” Emma said.
“As a leader in health, if you’re very clear on where you want to get to and why it is important, the team will follow you. If you say this is what we need to do, and it’s important, and they can see that it’s going to make a huge difference, they’ll just step up time and time and time again.”
Emma said she’s looking forward to getting back to travel – and actually had a moment while setting up Qudos Bank Arena, sitting on the floor charging her laptop, that reminded her of the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think the last time I did that was at an airport! And that reminded me: that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to make things normal again,” Emma said.
“I think this is probably the most important thing I’ll do in my entire career. It’ll probably have the most impact and be the thing that I remember and be really proud of.
“Sometimes change is scary, and doing things differently is scary, but I think the team here have stepped up to make a difference. Now the call out is to the public. Come and get vaccinated.”