Persevering through adversity: What our emergency doctors would like you to know on World Emergency Medicine Day 

The Pulse spoke with Dr Kavita Varshney and Associate Professor Naren Gunja from Westmead Emergency Department ahead of World Emergency Medicine Day.

How proud are you of WSLHD staff working in Emergency Medicine?

Dr Kavita Varshney:

We are extremely proud of the ED staff at Westmead Hospital. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Westmead Hospital supported the community of western Sydney and greater Sydney for many months. The staff were resilient, hardworking, committed, and reliable.  They turned up day after day, without fail, to ensure that the community was safe, and that patients that required medical intervention due to other injuries or illness still had access to optimum care. 

During the peak of the pandemic, the Emergency Department at Westmead Hospital also faced the challenge of relocating to a new building.  We moved the entire Emergency Department and, once again, the staff adapted quickly, and are now able to provide world class care in a new setting.

The staff are busy and hardworking but have never lost their empathy and willingness to provide the best care for their patients.

It is a wonderful team to work with and to be a part of.”

A/Prof. Naren Gunja

If you are in a car accident, emergency medicine specialists are there to look after you. If you have a heart attack or stroke, emergency physicians are there to treat you urgently.

Emergency medicine is the specialty looking after the sickest patients when they come through the front door of the hospital.

What excites you about the field of Emergency Medicine?

Dr Kavita Varshney:

There are many exciting things about Emergency Medicine, the diversity of the workload being one of them. We see patients with trauma, gynaecological issues, medical problems and involving all possible specialities, such as rashes, eyes, dental, etc. Emergency Medicine covers all aspects of medicine and health.

No two days are the same. There is always something to learn and there are always memorable moments.

We interact with so many different groups of people – patients, relatives, various types of first responders as well as all those in the hospital – other medical teams, nursing staff, allied health, security – which can be very stimulating and energising. It provides the sense of being part of a wider hospital and social community.

Westmead Hospital Emergency Department has a number of special services that make it unique. For example, it is the state decontamination centre, and the state high consequence infectious disease response centre. In conjunction with the infectious diseases and public health teams, we also respond and staff the state evacuation centre, should it be opened.

There are always lots of things happening to keep you busy and constantly learning.

A/Prof. Naren Gunja

As an emergency physician and toxicologist, I am passionate about caring for our patients with drug toxicity and envenomation (the injection of venom into a person’s body).

How critical is Emergency Medicine in our community?

A/Prof. Naren Gunja

Emergency medicine is critical in caring for our community when they need it the most – when they are at their most vulnerable and at times when they are desperate for urgent help.

What would you like the community to know this Emergency Medicine Day?

Dr Kavita Varshney:

Our staff are patient advocates and will do their best to ensure that all patients receive the best possible care and have access to the specialist and ongoing care they need.

We are, however, partners of the patients in their healthcare journey and we would appreciate if patients could keep an updated list of their current medications and specialists. There are some apps available that can help with this.

Patients also need to have a relationship with their GPs for ongoing monitoring and surveillance and all their support. We encourage our patients to be an active partner in their own health.

In many ways good health begins in the home. The ED is for moments of crisis or repair, while the GP is for the regular maintenance.

Please remember, the Emergency Department is for emergencies only.”