When she’s not treating patients with cancer at Westmead Hospital, radiation oncologist Dr Sandra Turner is busy organising the volunteer doctors and dentists at Qudos Bank Arena Vaccination Centre.
While the centre was staffed by a total group of 2,700 paid employees, an additional 50 senior specialists from Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) and beyond generously put their hand up to assist with vaccinations when needed.
As a volunteer herself, Dr Turner realised they would need someone to coordinate the volunteers and stepped up to liaise with the group, allocate shifts, and assist with training and on-boarding.
“I regularly spoke to the nurse team leaders to find out where we can be most useful – a lot of the time, it is around shift handover, mealtimes and in the after-work vaccination rush,” she said.
“All the doctors and dentists who volunteered were trained to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. We were not here to perform the tasks we specialise in, but more so to help out wherever needed.
“We helped bring down queues to improve flow through the centre, just from having a few extra hands on board during the peak times. We vaccinated, we helped in the recovery area and even helped direct traffic,”
Dr Turner said no two weeks are the same at Qudos Bank Arena, with demand changing on a day to day basis.
On her busiest day she managed to round up ten volunteers including herself to be on site delivering vaccinations within a matter of hours.
“I do feel as though this role is important because there were so many people who were available and keen to volunteer, but no one was there to organise them,” she said.
“It has been a real team effort. I would especially like thank Westmead Hospital librarian Maya Sebestyen who acted as an admin assistant to my role.
“I feel privileged to work alongside this group. Everyone was so willing to step up and volunteer their time – it makes me extremely proud!”
Dr Turner said in her 26 years at Westmead Hospital, she never imagined she would be assisting at the height of a global pandemic – but was happy to play her part in the once-in-a-lifetime challenge.
“A lot of us were exposed to the issues of COVID-19 on an everyday basis, but weren’t managing COVID-19 patients or directly involved with the COVID-19 response until this opportunity came along,” she said.
“Being at Qudos Bank Arena has been a massive change of scene for me, and I have particularly enjoyed interacting with the HSC kids – I have two daughters in their early twenties, so I felt like I could connect with them, calm them down if they were anxious, and interact with them on a personal level.
“When I am treating cancer patients, I am often delivering bad news, or they are sometimes quite ill. For me has been a very different and always positive experience as a doctor, and I am honoured to coordinate a team who is so passionate about keeping the community of western Sydney safe from COVID-19.”
Walk-in Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations will be available at Qudos Bank Arena until 7 November 2021 for both first and second doses.
Vaccination appointments are available at more than 3000 locations across NSW including pharmacies, GPs and NSW Health clinics – including the NSW Health Vaccination Centre, Sydney Olympic Park (Figtree Drive), and Blacktown Hospital Vaccination Clinic. Find the next available appointment at a location near you here.