WSLHD staff pitch their ideas to a panel of executives at the inaugural sparQ Tank event for Human Experience Week

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has held its inaugural sparQ Tank event as part of Human Experience Week 2024, with staff members from across the district invited to pitch their big Quality Improvement ideas to a panel of executive members.

This event allowed staff to address issues they encounter in the clinical space and present their ideas as part of the broader commitment to care in the district, with a focus on solving the ‘pebble in their shoe’.

The event, held at Westmead Hospital, was inspired by the Shark Tank TV show style of pitching, with nine innovative projects presented to a panel of judges and an auditorium of peers.

Participants presented their ideas in the hope of receiving funding to put towards their project’s implementation.

The event aimed to amplify voices, inspire hope, and foster a culture of thriving, focusing on removing obstacles and enhancing experiences for both patients and staff as part of the district’s celebrations of Human Experience Week.

This focus on Quality Improvement measures from the frontline perspective meant that the presenters had the attention of the panel, which included multidisciplinary staff from a range of wards and corporate backgrounds.

Members included:

  • WSLHD Chief Executive Graeme Loy
  • WSLHD Executive Director of Quality and Safety Peter Hockey
  • Auburn Hospital Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) Palliative and Supportive Care Unit Jason Selmon
  • Head of Department (HOD) Nutrition and Dietetics at Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals (BMDH) Caroline Cusack
  • WSLHD Director of Aboriginal Health Belinda Cashman
  • WSLHD Multicultural Health Unit Dipti Zacchariah
  • Anaesthetist and co-founder of the ‘One-stop-shop’ Clinic Peter Smith.

NSW Young Australian of the year for 2024, Nikhil Autar, was also a special guest.

A cancer survivor and medical student, Nikhil founded Knia Maps for accessibility, Bheem Health for low-cost medical devices, raised nearly $500,000 for cancer research, and is a blogger, disability advocate, and motivational speaker.

The sparQ Tank opened with a keynote speech from panel member Peter Smith, who discussed how his project, the Westmead Hospital ‘One-stop-shop’ came to fruition.

The clinic was set up in response to the rising number of people with a disability presenting to WSLHD emergency departments with preventable conditions, and supports patients with developmental intellectual and physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

“What I see coming out of WSLHD is a constant drive for improvement – innovation is a key initiative we’re trying to focus on,” WSLHD Chief Executive Graeme Loy said.

“Today is about trying to understand what we can do differently.”          

Below is a summary of each of the innovative projects that were presented during the event.

SOAR – Sit Out And Recover

THE PEBBLE: Alexia Kozary, Physiotherapist, presented a project addressing the negative effects of prolonged bedrest on patients’ recovery.

THE PITCH: The initiative encourages patients to spend more time out of bed, promoting independence and faster recovery, ultimately aiming to create a hospital environment where patients are actively encouraged to sit out and recover.

Focus on thriving, not just surviving. Patients need to SOAR.

Alexia Kozary, Physiotherapist.

Communicate with Confidence

THE PEBBLE: Melina Waibel, Speech Pathologist, introduced Communicate with Confidence, which focuses on patients with acquired communication impairments with functional communication skills.

THE PITCH: By providing intensive therapy sessions and involving stakeholders, the program aims to reduce social isolation and improve the quality of life for these patients post-discharge.

Work Together, Achieve Together – Inpatient Diversional Activities

THE PEBBLE: Clyde Sy, Clinical Nurse Educator, presented a project aimed at reducing falls, stress and agitation among older adult patients, many of whom are diagnosed with dementia and delirium, through inpatient diversional activities.

THE PITCH: The aim is to work closely with patients and families, using diversional activities to reduce the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia by redirecting people’s attention to positive and stimulating activities.

Accreditation of Health Services for Youth Friendliness

THE PEBBLE: Sarah Young, Youth Transition Project Officer, identified that youth are less likely to access the health services they need.

THE PITCH: A project focusing on accrediting health services for youth friendliness. The initiative involves surveying young people to identify barriers to accessing healthcare and providing recommendations for improvement, ultimately promoting better health outcomes for young people.


THE PEBBLE: Heather Martin, Senior Exercise Physiologist, presented MoveWell, which aims to address sedentary behavior in mental health consumers.

THE PITCH: By promoting physical and mental health, MoveWell seeks to improve overall well-being and life expectancy, and reduce hospitalisations.

Eradicating CPE from ICU Handwashing Basins

THE PEBBLE: Louisa Sasko, Manager Infection Prevention & Control Westmead Hospital, discussed a project targeting the eradication of enterobacterales (CPE) from ICU handwashing basins.

THE PITCH: Utilising innovative cleaning methods, and phage therapy the project aims to reduce healthcare-associated transmissions and prevent institutional outbreaks.

Improving Family-Led Care in ICU

THE PEBBLE: Chloe Lee, Physiotherapist, highlighted a project focusing on instances of ICU-acquired weakness.

THE PITCH: A project focusing on family-led care in ICU – by engaging families in patient care, the project aims to improve staff satisfaction and enhance patient experiences.

This project will prove that simply engaging families and carers reduces incidences of ICU acquired weakness.

Chloe Lee, Physiotherapist.

Hydrate & Elevate: Revolutionising Care for Women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

THE PEBBLE: Michelle Underwood, Clinical Midwife Consultant, presented on in hospital treatment on women with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Traditional treatment causes discomfort for women, and utilises acute treatment spaces.

THE PITCH: A project implementing Hospital in the Home (HITH) and outpatient services for women with HG. The initiative aims to provide personalised care, reduce stress associated with hospitalisation, and improve outcomes for women.

Innovative Falls Screening and Interventions

THE PEBBLE: Andrew Emerson, Geriatrician at Westmead Hospital, discussed the ongoing issue of elderly patients experiencing falls which causes further injury and disruption to their care.

THE PITCH: A project implementing FLASH (Falls Assessment Screening and Healthcare) for improved falls screening in hospitals. Already implemented at Blacktown Hospital, and being rolled out at Westmead Hospital soon, the project aims to reduce falls, improve patient-centred care, and enhance patient and family education.

Panellists and attendees had the opportunity to ask each participant questions relating to their project, and provide input, highlighting the collective goal of improving patient care and staff experience at the district.

“Today’s event really embraced innovation, and innovation is what we’re all about,” Graeme said.